Water Contamination

The New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services (NHDES) will soon begin to connect 360 Litchfield homes to the Pennichuck public water system. The new water pipes are meant to help homeowners with contaminated wells.

The multinational corporation Saint-Gobain is paying for all of the planning and construction.

Saint-Gobain is the likely source of the water contaminant, PFOA, identified in several southern New Hampshire drinking water sources this year.

Dennis Amith via Flickr CC

Dartmouth College officials say a second private well near a Hanover farm where contaminated laboratory animals were buried in the 1960s and 1970s has tested positive for a toxic chemical believed to have migrated from the site.

John K via Flickr CC

Two-hundred randomly selected public water customers in Merrimack will get their blood tested for PFOA. That’s the contaminant found in drinking water near the Saint-Gobain plastics plant.

Emily Corwin / NHPR

The state will offer blood tests to a random selection of residents who use  city water in Merrimack. That’s despite the fact that public water in Merrimack is currently below the state’s enforceable threshold for PFOA contamination.

Surrounding the Saint-Gobain plastics plant in Merrimack, over 600 private wells have been tested for the chemical PFOA, and more than a third have turned up with high enough contamination to qualify for bottled water, new water infrastructure, and blood tests paid for by Saint-Gobain.


As New Hampshire regulators consider adopting the EPA’s PFOA health advisory as the state’s enforceable standard, a New Jersey committee has recommended setting a much lower standard in that state.

Emily Corwin / NHPR

In the last couple years, millions of people across the country have learned their drinking water contains high levels of the contaminants known as perfluorichemicals. These are used to make nonstick things like Teflon and pizza boxes.  And for those with illnesses that are linked to the contaminant, that knowledge can be helpful -- and frustrating.

The Conservation Law Foundation says it will file two lawsuits against the Pease Development Authority over stormwater discharges, which the foundation alleges contains high levels of the chemical contaminants PFOA and PFOS.

public domain / wikimedia commons

The state’s Department of Environmental Services is going through the public comments as it weighs how much of the contaminants PFOA and PFOS to allow in drinking water in the state. These are the chemicals that have contaminated wells in Southern NH, on the former Pease Air Force Base, and countless other locations around the country and the world. 

A Dartmouth hazardous waste burial site has contaminated the ground water near a Hanover neighborhood. Those chemicals are now on the move, and at least one family’s drinking water has been affected. 

Joe Shlabotnik/flickr

This Friday is the last day for New Hampshire residents to weigh in on drinking water standards for the chemicals PFOA and PFOS. These are the chemicals that have contaminated drinking water in Southern NH, on the former Pease Air Force Base, and countless other locations around the country and the world.

On Tuesday, NHPR host, Brady Carlson spoke with reporter Emily Corwin about the deadline.

So get me up to date here. Friday is the deadline for the public to comment on a new rule?


Residential water sources near a Superfund site on the Seacoast have tested below the state’s standard for perfluorichemicals - including PFOA. Earlier tests at the site showed PFCs at levels significantly higher than the state standard.

Sixteen residential wells near the former Coakley landfill were tested for perfluorichemicals following the discovery of those contaminants in monitoring wells at the landfill earlier this year. All of the residential wells tested showed PFC levels below the recently established state standard.


The Coakley Landfill, a federal Superfund site located in North Hampton and Greenland, N.H., is the fifth source of perfluorinated chemicals identified in New Hampshire. 


Take a look at the Merrimack, NH Water Issue Facebook page and you’ll see that people on the town's public water are not happy. Dozens call the water commissioners “unprepared,” say they are “protecting the culprit,” and need to “step up.”  

Unlike other towns in New Hampshire, in Merrimack, the public water system (Merrimack Village District, or MVD) is independent from town governance, overseen by its own elected board of commissioners.  

John K via Flickr CC

Residents concerned about PFOA contamination in Merrimack’s public water supplies demanded more accountability from commissioners at a meeting held on Monday.

Unlike many other towns in New Hampshire, Merrimack’s public water is overseen by an independent board of commissioners and is not coordinated with town government.

Jason Moon for NHPR

State health officials held a meeting in Portsmouth Thursday night to discuss the results of over 1500 blood tests from people exposed to contaminated water at the former Pease Air Force base.

The Department of Health and Human Services will now pay for blood tests for some residents exposed to chemicals like PFOA and PFOS.

The department paid for the blood tests after workers and parents demanded them following exposure on the Pease Air Force Base two years ago. But DHHS had resisted paying for blood tests in Southern New Hampshire where similar chemicals turned up. That changed today, DHHS spokesman Jake Leon says.

Emily Corwin

  A new kind of water contamination has shown up all over the US, including New England. This time it’s not lead, like in the Flint, Michigan water system, but instead it's a chemical used to manufacture Teflon pans, firefighting foam, even microwave popcorn bags. It's forced some communities to hand out bottled water and shut down their water systems.

Ian Sane / flickr, creative commons

  The federal government does not regulate PFOA and PFOS -- the contaminants found in drinking water in Southern New Hampshire and on the former Pease Air Force Base. But as of today, they are regulated in New Hampshire.

That’s because the state’s environmental regulator has filed an emergency rule giving the state new authority over contaminated water.  

Water Contamination in N.H. Addressing PFOA

May 31, 2016
florianhuag / Flickr/CC

With new guidance from EPA on how much of the chemical is too much, and a lawsuit against the plastics plant that is its source, many Granite Staters are glad to see more action around the contamination. But others are still worried: both that the damage is already done, and that there's not enough assurance that it won't happen again.

Emily Corwin / NHPR

Last week was a big news week for residents dealing with water contamination issues in New Hampshire and across the country. 

Emily Corwin / NHPR

The EPA has announced a lifetime health advisory level for two chemicals that have contaminated water in Southern New Hampshire and at the former Pease Air Force Base.

Emily Corwin / NHPR

Private wells near a former manufacturing plant in Amherst have tested high for levels of the chemical PFOA.

The contamination likely originates at a former Textiles Coated International plant. That company moved its operations to Manchester in 2005.

Emily Corwin / NHPR

Saint-Gobain is not the only company using perfluorinated compounds in New Hampshire. New Hampshire’s Department of Environmental Services has identified 44 companies in the state that likely use or once used this water-contaminating compound in their products.

Perfluorinated compounds include PFOA, found earlier this year at Saint-Gobain’s Performance Plastics plant in Merrimack, and PFOS, found two years ago in well water on the former Pease Air Force base.

Emily Corwin / NHPR

  Residents with contaminated wells in Southern New Hampshire may be able to hook up to public water in the coming months. That’s since Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics in Merrimack agreed to pay for design efforts to extend public water to affected homes.

Flikr Creative Commons / eyesore9

The New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services has announced updated drinking water well test results for the water contaminant PFOA in Southern New Hampshire.

Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation


  In 2002, the Saint-Gobain performance plastics plant in Merrimack doubled in size.  That growth happened when the company decided to close its plant in Bennington, Vt., and move those operations to Merrimack, N.H.

Ceyhun (Jay) Isik / https://flic.kr/p/cG7qFL

A second bottled water pickup has been scheduled for Southern New Hampshire residents whose wells were contaminated with the compound known as PFOA.

The state Department of Environmental Services will provide the bottled water, paid for by Saint-Gobain, at the Litchfield Transfer station on Sunday, from 9 to 3.

Residents who qualify include those within a one-mile radius of the Saint-Gobain plastics plant, as well as those in designated neighborhoods outside of that radius.

  More than 500 people showed up at a Merrimack Elementary School last night for the first public information meeting about a water contaminant found in private wells in the town.

There, the state’s Departments of Health and Human Services, and Environmental Services told the packed auditorium that the state would offer voluntary blood tests to the handful of residents whose wells test over a certain threshold. 

On Thursday, DHHS public information officer Jake Leon told NHPR "it's still early. It's hard to know what we're going to do."  

Joe Shlabotnik/flickr

A large turnout is expected for a meeting in Merrimack Wednesday night where state officials will update residents on their investigation into the chemical contamination of some local water supplies.

The state Department of Environmental Services has expanded the radius of its probe after three private wells tested for high levels of the chemical PFOA.

DES has now collected samples from approximately 100 private wells within a mile of the Saint-Gobain plastics plant in Merrimack, where the chemical was first detected.

public domain / wikimedia commons

  A Kentucky-based attorney is criticizing the NH Department of Environmental Services for its response to possible water contamination in Merrimack.