Groundwater contamination found at old Merrimack landfill

by Kimberly Houghton, originally posted on May 17, 2016


MERRIMACK — Groundwater contamination has been discovered at the former town landfill, prompting state officials to begin another round of private well sampling to determine the extent of the problem now facing several communities in southern New Hampshire.

As part of the state’s ongoing water contamination investigation, elevated levels of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) have been detected at the old landfill in Merrimack, which is situated on a 25-acre parcel near the existing Merrimack Transfer Station on Fearon Road.

Jim Martin, public information officer with the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services, announced Tuesday that eight out of 10 monitoring wells adjacent to the landfill detected PFOA at levels above 100 parts per trillion, the threshold set by DES to begin distribution of bottled water.

“We began heading out into the field today to knock on doors and begin collecting more (water) samples,” said Martin. “There are some neighborhoods to the north of that area, and the south.”

At least one of the wells at the landfill detected PFOA at 2,200 ppt, which is significantly higher than the federal advisory level of 400 ppt.

The former landfill property includes two unlined landfills that operated from the early 1970s to 2003, according to a release, adding both landfills received solid waste from local residences and businesses.

“We don’t know what the source of the (PFOA) is at the landfill. We are going to be working with the town of Merrimack and requesting that a record search be done to look into waste disposal records for the landfill,” said Martin.

The landfills were capped with an impermeable membrane in 2004, with groundwater monitoring beginning in 1987 and continuing under a groundwater management permit issued by NHDES, states the release. However, Martin said Tuesday that the state never tested for PFOA at the landfill until now.

In light of the newly detected PFOA at the former landfill, DES is beginning to sample private residential wells in the vicinity of the site, although an exact radius has not yet been determined.

“We most likely will be testing homes in Bedford as well,” he said, explaining the old landfill is housed near the Merrimack border with Bedford.

So far, 73 wells within Merrimack, Litchfield and Amherst have detected elevated levels of PFOA above 100 ppt., and more than 200 properties are receiving bottled water as a precaution — most of them located within a mile of Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics in Merrimack. PFOA contamination has also been discovered at the former Textiles Coated International plant in Amherst.

Town officials in Amherst have scheduled a public meeting with representatives from DES, which will take place at 7 p.m. tonight at Souhegan High School to discuss its most recent detection of PFOA in four private wells near the old Textiles Coated International site.

PFOA, most commonly known for its presence in Teflon, has been linked to at least three cancers and several other illnesses.

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