WINDHAM — As the town continues to grow, the problem of storm-water runoff isn’t going away anytime soon, town officials said this week.
During Monday’s meeting of the Board of Selectmen, David Poulson, director of the town’s solid waste department, gave an update on state and local efforts to address the problem.
In Windham, both Dinsmore Brook and the north tributary to Canobie Lake are considered “impaired waters,” meaning both water bodies have been contaminated with road salt at some point, most likely due to the Interstate 93 expansion and continued development in that area of town.
“Simply put, everybody that’s affecting these water bodies will need to reduce their salt impact,” Poulson said.
Poulson, along with Road Agent Jack McCartney, have been actively involved in salt reduction efforts with the communities of Derry, Salem and Londonderry, as well as other towns along the I-93 corridor.“It’s a big pie and you have to share in the reductions,” he said. “It can be very problematic when you have to share the burden.”
Poulson said the public plays a vital role in addressing the problem.
Over the past two decades, Windham has been active in the state’s Volunteer Lake Assessment Program, where citizens assist in monitoring local waters for pollutants.
“We can also work to reduce surface pollution at home and away,” Poulson said. “We owe it to ourselves to become more educated on this topic and care a little more.”
While road salt, or chloride pollution, cannot be treated in a traditional sense, the salt can be flushed out of a water body.
“It’s very costly to treat,” he said. “If a pond has chloride in it and it’s contained, it just becomes more and more saturated. The entire ecosystem begins to shift.”
As it stands now, the town of Windham is active in the Nashua-Area Storm Water Coalition , along with Amherst, Hollis, Hudson, Litchfield, Merrimack, Milford, Nashua, Pelham and Salem.Other storm coalitions are spread throughout the state, with groups based in Manchester and the Seacoast region.
About 40 municipalities are participating in the efforts and working closely with the state Department of Environmental Services.
Selectman Kathleen DiFruscia lauded Poulson’s efforts.
“It’s important to protect our resources as is reasonable,” she said. “I think there are a lot of things that can be done. We can have development and still deal with the issue of storm water runoff. There are plenty of things we can do in our local community.”
DiFruscia, along with Poulson, McCartney and Community Development Director Laura Scott, agreed to form a committee and meet regularly with residents, including property owners living near Cobbett’s Pond and Canobie Lake.There was a similar committee in town several years ago, Poulson said.
“My intent is to reform that group,” he added. “We’re going to need all the help we can get as we’re going to see a lot more audits going forward.”
“These responsibilities should be shared,” Poulson said.
“The time has come for us to take a good look at Windham’s own regulations and make sure we’re protecting our water resources,” she said.
Scott stressed that it is development in general, and not just economic development, that has contributed to the storm water runoff problem.
“The business community hasn’t created this problem, and its time we all take some responsibility for fixing it,” Scott said.