Traces of contamination still emitted from Saint-Gobain site

by Kimberly Houghton, originally posted on July 21, 2016


MERRIMACK — State officials announced Thursday that small traces of contamination are still being released from the stacks at Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics, the suspected source of water contamination in southern New Hampshire.

The New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services said in a statement that “small amounts of perfluorooctanoic acid are being emitted from the facility.”

The stack emissions were tested on May 2 and May 3, and the results were just released on Thursday. According to DES officials, low level concentrations of perfluorochemicals, including PFOA, are still being released.

However, DES stressed that the amount of contamination being emitted is less than two ounces of PFOA per year.

“These emissions do not violate any ambient air quality standard, either state or federal,” states a release. “Potential sources of the PFOA may include chemicals supplied to Saint-Gobain for manufacturing purposes, and residual materials contained within the stack emissions at the plant.”

Saint-Gobain has agreed to clean the residues from the stacks and perform new emissions testing in early August, according to the DES statement, adding state officials will observe the testing process.

In addition, state officials will be seeking additional details from Saint-Gobain’s suppliers to determine whether the chemicals being provided to the company contain PFOA or perfluorooctane sulfonate.

Brandon Kernen of DES said this week that 588 private wells have been sampled within a 1.5 mile radius of the Saint-Gobain plant in Merrimack, and 171 of those wells — or about 30 percent — are above the state standard for PFOA, which is 70 parts per trillion.

In addition, Kernen said the state is now providing bottled water to 480 properties in the region because of the water contamination problem. Free blood testing is now being offered to residents who live near the Saint-Gobain facility who have private wells with PFOA contamination above 70 ppt.

Pennichuck Corp. is preparing a system design for an expansion of its public service territory to include the private wells within the contamination zone, and a preliminary design of the system was recently completed, officials said earlier this week.

Still, residents were told Tuesday at a public meeting in Litchfield that blood test results could take months to complete, and because negotiations are still ongoing with Saint-Gobain, it may take until December for the completion of an alternative public water line extension.

Meanwhile, a legal team for Saint-Gobain is denying nearly every claim brought forward in a class-action lawsuit on behalf of residents with contaminated wells near the company’s Merrimack plant.

In a statement issued earlier this month by Saint-Gobain, the company said it has been and continues to be focused on providing clean drinking water to the residents of Merrimack, Litchfield and other towns near its facility.

Learn More