Manchester mayor backs restrictions on horses near drinking water
Gatsas, a member of the Board of Water Commissioners, spoke as the New Hampshire horse community considers its options about expected restrictions of horses on the vast Water Works holdings in the Lake Massabesic watershed.
"It's imperative we keep that water supply as pure as we can. ... That is our drinking water," said Gatsas, a former racehorse owner who said he still has one retired, 19-year-old horse.
"The legal landslide that would come from them declaring manure as hazardous to humans is just massive," said Patricia Morris of Center Barnstead. She said Water Works has not provided scientific studies to show that horse manure is hazardous to human health, and some studies have found no pathogens in horse manure.
"They eat grain, they eat hay, they eat apples and drink water. That's all they do," said Morris, who is also a member of the New Hampshire Equine Trails Coalition.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has said that droppings of warm-blooded animals contain bacteria that can cause gastrointestinal problems, Water Works Director David Paris said.
He said the science is also pretty clear on manure's effect on nutrient loading. When phosphorous and nitrogen in animal waste get into water bodies, it can lead to algae blooms. Blue-green algae blooms have been associated with serious diseases such as Lou Gehrig's disease, but scientists have not proved a direct link, according to material supplied by Paris.
She plans to file a right-to-know request with the agency to see if state money was used to develop trails on the land.
But Morris said setbacks from water bodies could be a possibility, and she would be willing to discuss areas where horses could be allowed on Water Works land. She noted that state parks officials recently backed away from horse restrictions but adopted rules that require riders to spread horse droppings when possible.
Paris said the Water Commission's Rules and Regulations Committee will meet soon to work on changes to Water Works regulations.