500 NH families now receiving bottled water because of contaminationv

by Kimberly Houghton, originally posted on July 9, 2016


MERRIMACK – It has been four months since contamination was discovered in private wells near Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics, and since that time, hundreds of families are now receiving bottled water.

“Approximately 500 families are on bottled water throughout the state,” said Clark Freise, assistant commissioner of the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services. “Obviously, nobody likes to be on bottled water, but in general, we find people to be extremely cooperative.”

Since the investigation into perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA, within some local water supplies was launched, Freise said 180 private wells have been detected with PFOA or a combination of PFOA and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) over 70 parts per trillion.

The data continue to grow as the investigation area in southern New Hampshire has expanded to include properties in Merrimack, Litchfield, Bedford, Amherst and a few locations in Manchester and Londonderry.

“The provision of bottled water serves as an interim measure while NHDES continues to investigate and determine the concentrations of contaminants actually present, and the appropriate long-term remedy for addressing wells containing elevated levels of perfluorochemicals in groundwater,” DES said in a recent statement.

For some individuals in town, using bottled water for drinking and cooking has become burdensome, prompting some homeowners to take matters into their own hands.

“We decided to have a whole house point-of-entry filter installed for peace of mind,” said Jane Sullivan, who lives on Springfield Circle in Merrimack. “Now I feel like life is back to normal for us because we don’t have to use the bottled water anymore.”

Her water filtration system was installed about a week ago, and Sullivan says she has no regrets about spending the $2,500 to purchase the system.

“I want the town of Merrimack to have a great reputation, and clean water. I feel really bad for people who don’t have the opportunity to do what we did,” said Sullivan. “This is impacting real estate values and people wanting to move to this area.”

Saint-Gobain doubts

She is hopeful that Merrimack Village District, the company that supplies public water to about 25,000 customers in Merrimack, will install its own filtration system for all of its supply wells as soon as possible.

Previously, an official with Saint-Gobain said that the company plans to install point-of-entry filtration systems on all private wells near the Merrimack plant that are detecting elevated levels of contamination.

However, DES and the Merrimack Village District have requested that Saint-Gobain also pay for the design, installation and operation of a treatment system to address contamination in two water district wells.

At this time, Saint-Gobain has not agreed to treat the public water supply.

“SGPP takes its environmental responsibilities very seriously. As you know, SGPP has been working cooperatively and actively with the state of New Hampshire and potentially impacted parties to investigate and respond to the presence of PFOA in the vicinity of SGPP’s Merrimack facility,” Attorney Christopher Gibson, legal representative for Saint-Gobain, wrote in a letter to Ron Miner of MVD last week. “However, based on the information available to date, SGPP does not believe that it is responsible for the PFCs detected in the (two public) wells.”

According to Gibson, Saint-Gobain and its experts believe that the Longa Landfill, not the Merrimack Saint-Gobain plant, is the likely source of contamination in two public MVD wells. Gibson added that ChemFab, the company that preceded Saint-Gobain, did not begin operations at the Merrimack site until 1984, at which time the landfill had already been closed for three years.

On Wednesday, Thomas Burack, DES commissioner, said the state “disagrees with the technical assertions and position that (Saint-Gobain) presents relative to the origin of PFC contamination in these wells.”

Saint-Gobain’s message is a cause for concern, according to Burack, who said near-term efforts should be initiated to ensure that residents in southern New Hampshire that are serviced by the MVD water system have an adequate supply of safe, clean drinking water.

Investigation frustration

One of those residents, Richard Maloon of Merrimack, said his private well has detected contamination above 70 ppt when combining PFOA and PFOS. Still, Maloon says he lives more than 1.5 miles from the Saint-Gobain facility, and has not considered using bottled water.

“The actual probability that I would be affected by this water is really negligible because I am elderly, and most of my life I did not live in Merrimack,” said Maloon, of Amherst Road. “For myself, I am not too concerned.”

Although Maloon will continue drinking his tap water and isn’t worried about potential health implications, he did voice frustration with how the investigation has progressed.

Several months ago when PFOA was originally detected, there was never any mention of combining PFOA and PFOS levels to determine the exact level of contamination, said Maloon. Now that the data are being combined, there are more properties that are discovering elevated levels of contamination, which really should have been identified earlier on in the process, he said.

Later this month, state officials will begin offering blood tests to individuals impacted by the water contamination. The number of residents that have inquired about blood tests was not immediately available last week.

Meanwhile, a class-action lawsuit was filed in May against Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics and its general manager at the Merrimack facility on behalf of residents with contaminated wells near the Merrimack plant.

The plaintiffs are seeking damages for the trespass, nuisance, loss of enjoyment and property damages in connection with water contamination allegedly caused by the Saint-Gobain site at 701 Daniel Webster Highway.

Kevin Brown, a resident at 498 Charles Bancroft Highway in Litchfield, is the plaintiff in the two separate class action suits – one focusing on medical monitoring as a result of the exposure to PFOA, and the other seeking a class action complaint and request for jury trial.

The next public hearing to discuss PFOA regulations will take place at 6 p.m. Aug. 3 at Campbell High School, 1 Highlander Court in Litchfield.

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