Water Contamination

Annie Ropeik / NHPR

Some Seacoast residents were unhappy Thursday night to hear state and federal officials reiterate they don’t believe the Coakley Landfill is contaminating area drinking water.

Authorities say some groundwater wells around the Superfund site in North Hampton do show high levels of suspected carcinogens called PFCs – but they say the chemicals haven’t spread to private wells.

Jason Moon for NHPR

The state Fish & Game Department is warning anglers not to eat the fish from a river on the Seacoast. As NHPR's Jason Moon reports, they're citing concerns about chemical contamination.

Each year, Fish & Game stocks Berry's Brook in Rye with several thousand brown trout.

The river begins in Greenland near the Coakley Landfill. That's a superfund site known to have high levels of perfluorochemicals, or PFCs, which are suspected carcinogens.

New Hampshire has reached what officials call a “monumental agreement” on water contamination with the Saint Gobain plastics company.

It comes more than two years after the state first learned of the contamination near Manchester, and will require the manufacturer to run clean water to all affected homes.

Saint Gobain notified the state in 2016 that it had released suspected carcinogens called perfluorinated chemicals, or PFCs, from its Merrimack factory.

The Air Force is announcing new efforts to address water contamination at the former Pease Air Force Base.

Pease is the site of the largest known perfluorochemical contamination in the state. In 2014, a drinking well was closed there after at least 1,800 people were exposed to PFCs at levels far above health advisory limits. Some evidence has linked PFCs to cancer.

Via Flickr CC / https://flic.kr/p/7MMKBg

Merrimack residents will vote this month on giving the town control of their water utility.

It comes after two years of struggle with contamination in local wells, likely stemming from local plastics-maker Saint Gobain.

Laurene Allen co-founded Merrimack Citizens for Clean Water, and says the local public water company's board hasn't been transparent about its dealings with the polluter.

Via USGS.gov

A bill that would force the cleanup of a hazardous landfill on the Seacoast hit a stumbling block in a House committee Tuesday.

The bill would require the groups that dumped hazardous waste at the Coakley Landfill in Greenland in the 70s and 80s to start cleaning it up.

Annie Ropeik for NHPR

State officials say they're close to finalizing a deal that would bring clean water to Bedford residents whose wells have been contaminated with toxic chemicals called PFCs since 2016.

The contamination likely came from air emissions at the nearby Saint Gobain Plastics Plant. Since then, many residents have been drinking bottled water as they wait for Saint Gobain to pay to connect them to Manchester's water system.

John K via Flickr CC

A state lawmaker wants entities that cause pollution in New Hampshire to pay in to the state's general fund as part of the cleanup.

Pixabay

Legislators are considering sharply lowering how much arsenic New Hampshire allows in drinking water – but regulators said in a committee hearing Wednesday it'd be easier said than done.

Right now, New Hampshire uses the federal arsenic limit of 10 parts per billion in drinking water.

Via USGS.gov

Lawmakers will consider at least a dozen bills about water contamination and other environmental hazards when they return to session in January.

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story reported that elevated PFCs were found in the Franklin Fire Department's drinking water. The chemicals were actually detected in a monitoring well at the department.

At least four New Hampshire fire departments have found an elevated level of toxic chemicals known as PFCs, either in their drinking water or in nearby monitoring wells.

The state has asked New Hampshire fire departments that use private wells to test their drinking water for a toxic chemical.

Any positive results could lead to more investigation of residential wells nearby. (Scroll down to read the letter sent to fire departments in October.)

The Department of Environmental Services wants fire stations to test for perflourinated chemicals, or PFCs. They're found in lots of man-made stuff, they don't break down, and some studies have linked them to cancer and other health problems.

Jason Moon for NHPR

State and federal environmental officials held a meeting in North Hampton Wednesday night to update residents on efforts to address contamination at the former Coakley landfill site.

For three hours, scientists with the EPA and the state Department of Environmental Services laid out the work that has been done and that will be done to monitor and address contaminated water at a former landfill on the Seacoast.

Ceyhun (Jay) Isik / Flickr Creative Commons

A Senate advisory commission next month will choose to fund several major projects improving drinking water across New Hampshire communities.

More than $200 million from a settlement with Exxon-Mobil over MTBE contamination has been set aside for funding these projects.

Robert Scott is the commissioner of the Department of Environmental Services. He’s also on the Drinking Water and Groundwater Advisory Commission. Morning Edition Host Rick Ganley spoke with him about issues with drinking water in the state.


NH Department of Health and Human Services

State health officials say residents on public water in Merrimack and Bedford have been exposed to perfluorochemicals, or PFCs, at rates higher than the general population, but lower than in some other exposed communities.

Blood tests from more than 200 residents in the two towns found levels of the chemical known as PFOA were roughly double what's found in the general population.

The contamination is thought to have come from a nearby Saint-Gobain performance plastics plant.

Jason Moon for NHPR

Last week, the Environmental Protection Agency said the Coakley Landfill, a superfund site in North Hampton, does not currently pose an unacceptable risk to human health.

That message came as a surprise to some members of a task force charged with investigating a cancer cluster on the Seacoast. They have been arguing for months that the EPA needs to be more proactive in addressing contamination at the site.

NHPR’s Seacoast Reporter Jason Moon recently sat down with All Things Considered host Sally Hirsh-Dickinson to talk more about this.

Seacoast lawmakers want to take steps to ensure that a chemical found in water near the Pease International Tradeport doesn't cause problems elsewhere.

The Portsmouth Herald reports that two bills proposed by Democratic state Rep. Mindi Messmer of Rye would add regulations and create limits for so-called PFCs detected in local drinking water.

PFCs are considered possible carcinogens and are found in household items like Teflon.

A state representative is calling for the resignation of New Hampshire's state epidemiologist. At issue is the validity of a new study about the health effects of exposure to certain water contaminants.

Democratic rep Mindi Messmer of Rye and state epidemiologist Ben Chan are both members of a task force investigating a cancer cluster identified on the Seacoast last year.

Cleaning Up New Hampshire's Contaminated Water

Aug 11, 2017
US Air Force

Last spring, the chemical PFOA was found in unusually high levels in wells in Southern New Hampshire, and, before that, on the Seacoast. Since then, the state has allocated millions to study and fix these sites, but critics worry the guidelines for contaminated water, and the work being done, aren't enough.  


Emily Corwin / NHPR

Over a year ago, residents near Merrimack, New Hampshire learned their drinking water had been contaminated by emissions from a plastics plant owned by the multinational company, Saint-Gobain.  

More than a year later, some residents in Merrimack say state and federal officials haven’t done enough to protect them from the contamination. Now, a few are taking things into their own hands, going door to door.

Howard Weiss-Tisman / Vermont Public Radio

A settlement between the state of Vermont and the plastics company Saint Gobain is catching the attention of some in New Hampshire who say the settlement should change the conversation around water quality here.

Efforts to clean up PFCs at the former Pease Air Force Base will be the topic of a meeting tonight in Portsmouth. Air Force officials plan to give an update on where those efforts stand, 3 years after the contamination was first discovered.

Two Bills Addressing Water Contamination Become Law

Jul 23, 2017
Josh Rogers for NHPR

Governor Sununu signed three bills having to do with water quality last week. 

Two new laws will address water contamination from perfluorichemicals – those so called “Teflon toxins” found on the Seacoast and in Southern New Hampshire.

One will allocate $5 million dollars from the state’s water trust to remedy contamination in Amherst. A year ago, the state found perfluorichemicals in private wells surrounding the former TCI plastics plant there.

Via USGS.gov

State and federal environmental officials are calling for new warning signs to be installed near a superfund site on the Seacoast.

Regulators are asking the group that manages the former Coakley Landfill in Greenland to install the signs at a brook near the site. They want to warn people that getting in the water may expose them to an industrial chemical with uncertain health effects.

Democratic Senator Jeanne Shaheen is pushing for a national health study on the health effects of perfluorochemicals – the same chemicals that contaminated drinking water at the former Pease Air Force Base in Portsmouth.

In an amendment to a $700 billion military spending bill, Senator Sheehan is hoping to fund a $7 million national health study about the effects of perfluorochemicals, or PFCS.

Ian Sane / flickr, creative commons

A bill that advocates say would have improved water quality standards in the state will not become law this session.

The bill would have directed the Department of Environmental Services to conduct a review of the safe drinking water standards for perfluorochemicals.

These industrial chemicals have been found in communities across the state – including near the Saint-Gobain plant in Merrimack and the former Pease Airforce Base in Portsmouth.

Via USGS.gov

The city of Portsmouth and the town of Greenland are asking the state to help pay for public water at homes whose private wells may be at risk of water contamination.

Residents living near the Coakley Landfill in Greenland fear their private wells are drawing contaminated water from the superfund site which received municipal and industrial waste in the 70s and 80s.

Officials in Greenland had previously asked Portsmouth, which operates the only public well in Greenland, to extend water lines to about 300 homes near the landfill.

Four wells in a neighborhood in Windham contain elevated levels of PFCs, a chemical contaminant, according to test results released Friday by the state’s Department of Environmental Services.

Ian Sane / flickr, creative commons

Lawmakers in the state senate heard testimony Tuesday on a bill that would force the state to lower the safe drinking standards for perfluorochemicals, a water contaminant.

Right now the state Department of Environmental Services uses a threshold of 70 parts per trillion when testing drinking water for PFCS, an industrial chemical used in non-stick pans and other products. That limit is based on the federal standard established by the Environmental Protection Agency.

<a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/autophotomoto/">autophotomoto</a> / Flickr

Saint-Gobain, a multinational plastics company, has agreed to pay for the design efforts to extend public water lines in Bedford.  The new water mains will connect to homes with wells contaminated by perfluorichemicals, most likely released from Saint-Gobain’s smokestacks. 

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