200-plus attendees at EPA’s first PFAS event
The first of the EPA’s community engagement events dedicated to the PFAS crisis took place June 25 and 26 in Exeter, NH, where community activists had their say on the Saint-Gobain water contamination crisis that has rocked the Merrimack area.
In a statement to more than 200 attendees on June 25, Laurene Allen, leader of Merrimack Citizens for Clean Water, said, “Merrimack residents need more protective laws as along with our neighboring towns of Bedford and Litchfield, we continue to be impacted by PFAS contamination that Saint-Gobain does not need to disclose to the NH Department of Environmental Services as the chemical industry has more protection than its victims.
We, the victims, are paying for their crimes.” Allen was one of 47 New England residents who spoke, including 30 community members who were directly impacted by contamination.
Jim Martin, a spokesman for the DES, which has worked closely with the EPA on monitoring the Merrimack area after Saint-Gobain reported PFAS water contamination in 2016, said, “The event provided an excellent opportunity for the EPA to hear firsthand accounts from community leaders in New England about PFAS in their communities on a personal level and how it has impacted their own families.” The event on June 25 started at 7 p.m. and completed at 11, where community presentations and public comments were heard.
In a statement released after the engagement event concluded, DES Commissioner Robert Scott said, “We are pleased the EPA was able to hear from our local communities about their concerns regarding PFAS contamination and we look forward to working with the EPA to establish PFAS drinking water standards.” EPA administrator Scott Pruitt announced four actions the EPA will take to address the PFAS issue at the national leadership summit in Washington in May, including evaluating the need for establishing Maximum Contaminant Levels for PFOA and PFOS, which were found in Merrimack.
Alexandra Dunn, the EPA’s New England regional administrator, said the EPA’s current levels of 70 parts per trillion for PFOAs and PFOS is a health advisory, not a regulation, which it will become with the establishment of a MCL.
Allen, who wants the EPA to develop a lower standard than the 70 parts per trillion health advisory, said, “EPA’s commitments don’t go far enough.” The Exeter event was the first to follow up the national leadership summit, where Pruitt outlined the EPA’s four point action plan.
The next three events will be held in Pennsylvania, Colorado and North Carolina.
“We received many suggestions at the event in Exeter that will be used to establish our national management plan,” Dunn said.
“Community leaders in New Hampshire gave wonderful support to the EPA as we planned the event and we hope it met their goal of being heard on this issue of grave concern.”