Bedford residents share concerns about water contamination
State officials hold meeting for two neighborhoods affected by PFOA
-by Adam Sexton, originally posted on March 30, 2016
BEDFORD, N.H. — State officials on Wednesday told people in the southeast corner of Bedford their water is safe to drink.
With so many unknowns about the chemical perfluoro-octanoic acid or PFOA, however, many residents of the neighborhood served by Merrimack water said they were fearful of contamination and not sure what to do.
Environmental officials addressed questions at a public meeting Wednesday night.
Two Bedford neighborhoods are dealing with the same water contamination affecting nearby Merrimack and Litchfield. Greenfield Farms and Cabot Preserve get their water from the Merrimack Valley District.
The state recently found PFOA in their drinking water at 36 parts per trillion.
“There’s hundreds of people affected by this. We don’t know what this chemical does. If they can do something, they should just do it,” said Donna Figler of Bedford.
Officials from the Merrimack Village District said they are already working on a possible solution.
“They have done some initial planning to find out what it might take to install treatment at their sources, how long it might take, and what it might cost,” said Keith Pratt of Underwood Engineers.
Because it is a separate water system serving a small part of Bedford, most of the town isn’t involved.
Many people said they wondered why the state isn’t testing wells beyond the 1-mile radius around St. Gobain Performance Plastics, the likely source of the PFOA.
“What we’re really looking for is that pattern of where are the high concentrations, and then we’re going to test outside of there until we get to lower concentrations so we know what the pattern of contamination looks like,” said Clark Freise, assistant commissioner of the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services.
Within the testing radius, the DES still has more than 100 private wells left to sample.
In the meantime, St. Gobain is testing soil and groundwater under its facility and is said to be cooperating with the state’s ongoing investigation.
“This is our very highest priority at this time, to make sure we are fully understanding what we’re dealing with and have a strong plan for moving forward to ensure that everyone here when they turn on the tap, they’re going to have safe, clean drinking water,” DES Commissioner Tom Burack said.
State officials said they first detected PFOA in Merrimack’s drinking water in 2014 at low levels. Those results were passed along to the Environmental Protection Agency, as required.
Merrimack Village District officials said the tests were close enough to the baseline levels, so they did not raise alarms.
Some customers said they were unhappy they were not informed.