Oct 12, 2015 5:53 PM
RYE - Nearly 70 pounds of litter was picked up from Seacoast beaches this weekend.
Among the trash was a sewage disk that volunteers believe came from the Hooksett sewage treatment plant disaster several years ago.
The white, plastic disks - about 2 inches in diameter - have been washing up on shores across New England, from Maine to Rhode Island, for more than four years.
It stems back to a March 2011 incident when heavy rains forced hundreds of thousands of gallons of raw sewage at the Hooksett wastewater treatment facility to overflow.
In addition to the sewage, an estimated four to eight million bacteria-collecting sewage disks were also accidentally released into the Merrimack River, according to the Dept. of Environmental Services.
A majority of the disks, which made their way to the Atlantic Ocean, were cleaned up by a service company. However, a large portion of the disks remain unaccounted for.
While it is impossible to know for sure how many are still out at sea, Blue Ocean Society's Executive Director Jennifer Kennedy said it could be in the 'tens of thousands' or more.
"We got tagged in a post on Instagram from somebody in England who had found one while they were walking on the beach," Kennedy said. That disk was found in August 2015.
On Monday, Kennedy told NH1 News that while the number of disks found on New Hampshire beaches continues to go down, they remain a potential threat to marine life and humans because of what they're made of - plastic.
"It’s not natural at all," Kennedy said. "It leaches a lot of chemicals into the ocean, which can have impacts on a variety of different things.”
The impacts of plastic on marine life is hard to determine, because it is believed many of the organisms that consume it die and sink to the bottom as opposed to washing up on shore, Kennedy said.
One of the plastic sewage disks, still completely whole, was found during a beach cleanup at Jenness State Beach on Saturday.
Volunteers also cleaned up 38 pounds of litter at the beach including plastic bags, water bottles and cigarette butts. Kennedy estimated the amount was about average for their monthly cleanups.
"We’ve seen anywhere from 10 pounds of litter to over 200 pounds. at that beach," said Kennedy.
An additional 39 pounds were picked up from Hampton Beach on Sunday by volunteers from the Apple store at the Mall at Rockingham Park in Salem. Plastic Army men and a harmonica were among the trash recovered there.
“I just think that’s disgusting," said Pam Curran, who was visiting Jenness on Monday afternoon. "I appreciate it when I do see people picking up their trash and taking it out. Sometimes myself and my grandchildren will pick up trash off the beach and just try to keep it clean - hoping that people will see that.”
As for the litter that is properly disposed of - park staff at Hampton Beach State Park told NH1 News they estimate over one ton of trash is removed from the town's bins along the boardwalk each day throughout the summer. Nearly 400-500 lbs. of recycling is also picked up.
But at take-in/take-out beaches, like Jenness, area residents wish visitors would take just a small, extra step to keep it clean.
"I wish people would respect that a little more," said Chris Dewsnap. "Just throw it in your cooler, it’s not that big of a deal.”
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