More than 350 homes in Bedford impacted by water problem

by Kimberly Houghton, originally posted on March 30, 2016


BEDFORD — There are currently 357 households in Bedford dealing with low levels of contamination in their public water supply.
Although Pennichuck Corp. serves those 357 properties within Greenfield Farms, Cabot Preserve and Parker Ridge, the water is purchased from Merrimack Village District.
Select water samples in Bedford have detected perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA, at 36 parts per trillion in those neighborhoods. The New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services is currently providing bottled water to households in other communities that have detected PFOA at 100 ppt or more.
Kelleigh Murphy, town council chairman, said town officials are very concerned about PFOA and the overall quality of the drinking water in Bedford.
Town councilors will work with state and federal officials to vigorously pursue the needs of local residents concerning water contamination, Murphy said Wednesday during a public information meeting on the issue.

The Bedford neighborhoods that are served by Merrimack Village District include Greenfield Farms, Cabot Preserve, Parker Ridge, Brick Mill and Jenkins Road.

To date, Merrimack Village District water wells — which provide water to 25,000 customers — have tested positive for PFOA at levels ranging from 17 ppt to 90 ppt.

“I’m not really frightened, but I think they should fix this problem,” said Lois Carter, a resident of Greenfield Farms who attended Wednesday’s meeting.

Carter said she doesn’t necessarily want to spend $2,500 or more to install a carbon filter for her entire household, but she does want reassurance that her drinking water is safe.

“We also want to keep our property values,” said Eileen Wallace, a Greenfield Farms resident.

Litchfield, Merrimack

Twenty private wells in Litchfield and Merrimack within one mile of Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics in Merrimack have detected PFOA above 100 ppt, and bottled water is being provided to those properties.

Although 20 wells have shown contamination, 19 properties are affected, since two of the wells sit on one site.

“I know the topic is emotional and concerning for all, and to some it is alarming,” said Rick Sawyer, acting town manager, noting Bedford’s water meeting is the third forum of its kind since PFOA was detected nearly a month ago at four faucets within the Saint-Gobain plant.

Since then, Saint-Gobain has begun sampling groundwater and soil samples at its Merrimack facility.

The state has initiated its own investigation and is collecting water samples within a one-mile radius of Saint-Gobain.

“We are expediting every bottle we can get in,” Clark Freise, assistant commissioner with DES, said of the water samples.

The out-of-state laboratory being utilized for the test results is calculating about 20 results per day, at best, according to Freise. He said the laboratory is currently at capacity.

For now, officials are focusing on a one-mile radius from the plastics facility in an effort to discover a contamination pattern.

The highest amounts of contamination have been detected at 820 and 830 ppt directly across from the plant at two private wells in Merrimack.

“These chemicals, unfortunately, are everywhere in the environment,” said Dr. Ben Chan, state epidemiologist.

There is no current federal regulation for PFOA, although there is a health advisory level of 400 ppt for long-term exposure. Vermont has set a standard of 20 ppt.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is expected to release an updated health advisory level for short-term exposure this spring.

The health effects of long-term exposure to PFOA are not fully known. Some studies have associated the chemical with high cholesterol, thyroid diseases, ulcerative colitis, prostate cancer, testicular cancer, kidney cancer, pregnancy-induced hypertension and more, according to Chan.

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