DES, Brockovich Probe Potential Chemical Contamination of Merrimack Drinking Water

Mar 10, 2016

Erin Brockovich

Concerns about possible chemical contamination of drinking water in the town of Merrimack have gotten the attention of environmental advocate Erin Brockovich.

Brockovich and a law firm announced Wednesday they are looking into the issue in the town as part of a regional investigation that includes communities in New York and Vermont.

“Almost every week a new community learns its drinking water is no longer safe,” said Brockovich, in a press release. “We have to put an end to this crisis, step up our investment into vital infrastructure and see a greater enforcement of the Safe Drinking Water Act.”

State environmental officials announced last week that Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics had detected low levels of perfluorooctanioc acid, or PFOA, in samples taken from four faucets in their Merrimack facility.

That facility is served by the Merrimack Village District Water System.

The state Department of Environmental Services is overseeing an investigation into whether the chemical is present in any of the system’s wells that serve the 25,000 customers in Merrimack, or any other wells near the facility.

"NHDES will work closely with MVDWS and the Town of Merrimack to ensure that residents are promptly informed of the results of the MVDWS well tests and any additional information resulting from the planned groundwater investigations being conducted by Saint-Gobain and NHDES," according to a release from the state Department of Environmental Services.

Testing is ongoing and results are expected later this month.

Saint-Gobain says it’s also testing soil and groundwater near its Merrimack facility.

PFOA has been detected near other Saint-Gobain facilities in North Bennington, Vermont and Hoosick Falls, New York.

Brockovich and the law firm Weitz & Luxenberg filed a class-action lawsuit last month against Saint-Gobain Plastics and Honeywell International on behalf of the residents of Hoosick Falls.

The suit claims residents there reported falling ill after drinking and cooking with water contaminated by PFOA.

Brockovich and her team say studies have found chronic PFOA exposure has been linked to serious medical problems, including several types of cancer.

Still, state environmental officials stress the amount detected in Merrimack is significantly below provisional standards published by the EPA, and say there’s no reason to believe the town’s water is not safe to drink.

Last year, Merrimack's drinking water was voted tastiest statewide.