By Louisa Berry
The Rockingham County Gazette
Thursday, March 30, 1967
HAMPTON — — One of the things most often taken for granted in any house is the disposal of the home’s waste materials. When the housewife opens the plug in her kitchen sink after doing the dinner dishes, pills out the plug after the evening bath or pushes down the handle on the familiar bathroom hopper, where the waste materials go is the furthest thing from her mind. To the home owner the problem ends as the materials leave the home. But for any town with a sewer department, their work begins when the waste material leaves the home.
In Hampton, one of the first “towns” in New Hampshire to have a waste disposal system back in 1934 when their first plant was built, the problems and methods of handling waste materials have taken giant steps forward into the age of technology since the installation of their new sewerage treatment plant in 1965.
The plant, known officially as the Hampton Waste Water Treatment Plant, is built on the site of the old plant, at the end of Tide Mill Road, on the edge of the Hampton Marshes, and at a low point in the town’s typography. When this plant was completed and began operation, late in 1965, it was the most modern installation of a primary treatment facility in the state, and since its operation it has become a model of efficiency much admired and followed by other communities faced with the problem of having to invest large sums of money to provide waste treatment, usually on orders from the State Water Pollution Board.
The Hampton Plant was built as the final phase of a massive $1,160,000 major sewer bond issue approved by the voters in 1961, and the plant alone cost the town $368,000. The first Phase of Hampton’s sewer planning was the construction of a number of major “lateral” lines, to collect waste from the major built-up areas of the town, and the second phase was the building of lift stations to take the materials on their way to the plant. Hampton has seven lift stations feeding waste into the two large lines that finally bring the material into the plant for treatment. As the lines approach the plant, they merge into one, along with the Hampton Beach feeder line, and then begins the coming together of technology, massive machinery and human know-how that make it possible to treat the raw sewerage, and in a matter of approximately 45 minutes, have an end product of water that is technically pure enough to drink, completely chlorinated and filtered and pure enough to be put into the ocean without fear of contaminating anything it touches.
This process, the separating of the water from the waste, although it takes considerable equipment and delicate electronic dials and meters, is only half of the picture of a modern treatment plant, for once the water is removed, the residual one percent of solid material must be treated, dried and disposed of in a way that will be both economical and sanitary. In this department, the Hampton plant handles their solid materials at a cost approaching four times less per ton than any similar installation in the area, and has an end result a material that, when tested at U.N.H. this summer, is expected to prove out as fine quality loam, lacking only in nitrates to make a perfect growing medium. The treatment of the solids is a delicate process requiring the mixture of chemicals in exact quantities, and like baking a cake, each "batch" of solids is first tested in the plant's laboratory before beginning final treatment, to determine precise content, wight and acidity.
The Hampton plant presently is capable of handling 1,500,000 gallons of waste per day as a primary treatment facility, and with the addition of a "trickling filter" system, could move into a secondary treatment phase. The capability of the main plant is 7,000,000 gallons per day, and as the town's needs grow, this capability can be used by adding to the plant more large tanks, pumps and other portable equipment.
One of the special features of the Hampton plant is it's service of taking septic tank sludge from area contractors for treatment. For a fee of five dollars, any contractor engaged in the business of pumping septic tanks can dump a load at the Hampton Plant. In the past, this sludge was dumped onto open land, contaminating valuable property. In 1966, close to 55% of this sludge dumped in the Hampton plant came from out of Hampton septic tanks.
In talking of the plant, Department Superintendent Leavitt Magrath mentioned the State's plans to move for more stringent controls on the treatment of waste materials and said "The State is looking towards the secondary treatment of sewerage in the state and when it is required, we will have the capability of converting at a relatively small cost." Magrath and his eight man department not only operate the treatment plant but are also charged with maintenance of all sewer lines in the town and construction or supervision of all new sewer lines. Last year, the department alone constructed 172 new sewer entrances, at considerably less cost than similar work done by contract, and supervised the beginning of a major sealing program on all major liens.
While all this is being done, the paper work of plotting new lines and connections and locating accurately all old lines goes on and has been built up over the years so that Hampton now has one of the most complete set of records of dewer lines of any community in the state. Their records show the exact location of all lines, and, by a system of cross references, in a matter of seconds, a plan for any street in Hampton can be located showing locations of all individual connections.
The by-word of the Hampton plant is "better and more economical ways to do things" and according to assistant Superintendent of Sewers, George Hardardt to save money while never stinting on the quality of work done. With a plant like this maintenance is foremost on the minds of the men and a tour through the works shows that they "care" in little ways, to make this plant better. The plant is spotless, with every spot painted painted surface freshly painted and never allowed to become rundown. Floors are mopped constantly and before entering the plant the men automatically wipe their feet, so as not to track in mud from outside.
Although the state has for a number of years been making efforts to stem the tide of contamination of the lakes, streams and ocean which are a landmark of New Hampshire, it wasn't until 1959, during the first administration of former Governor Wesley Powell, that any state aid was offered to communities for their pollution problems. At that time the present program, with the state paying 40% of the cost, the Federal Government paying 30% of the cost, and local communities having to put up 30% of the cost, began. Hampton was one of the first communities in the state to apply for funds under the new aid program, and this plant is the final result of that aid. Without state aid the burden of having to pay over 70% of the cost of this kind of program would have been too great to consider and without this up to date approach to the treatment of our "forgotten product" further contamination of our public waterway would become greater and greater.