Water contamination now discovered in Amherst

by Kimberly Houghton, originally posted on May 11, 2016


AMHERST — Amherst is the latest community to join the roster of towns with water contamination problems, as state officials have detected an emerging chemical in private wells around the former Textiles Coated International (TCI) plant.

On Wednesday, the state Department of Environmental Services said four private wells within a half-mile radius of the former TCI site at 105 Route 101A tested positive for elevated levels of perfluorochemicals, or PFOA, the same chemical discovered recently in some private wells in Merrimack and Litchfield near Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics in Merrimack.

Eleven private wells were tested in Amherst near TCI; four had PFOA levels above 100 parts per trillion (ppt) — the threshold DES has set to provide bottled water.

“I don’t think I am necessarily surprised by these results,” said Jim Martin, public information officer with DES. “This is all happening very quickly.”

Owners of the four properties — three residential and one commercial — are now being offered bottled water, according to Martin. The highest PFOA level among the four parcels was 620 ppt. The federal advisory level is 400 ppt.

According to Martin, DES began sampling some wells near TCI in Amherst based on the company’s prior use of perfluorochemicals.

“We approached this facility with probably the same way that we approached Saint-Gobain, given the fact that we knew they did very similar processes,” said Martin.

According to its website, TCI is an American manufacturer of high-performance fluoropolymer films, laminates and composites.

State officials say the TCI plant in Amherst operated from 1985 to 2006. The company has had a manufacturing facility since 2005 at 200 Bouchard St. in Manchester, on the east side of Manchester-Boston Regional Airport.

During a recent unannounced site inspection at that location, TCI told DES that it has not used ammonium perfluorooctanoate, an ammonium salt of PFOA, since 2013.

“They have been cooperative, to date,” Martin said of TCI, adding the state plans to conduct additional site inspections at other, unspecified companies as an expansion of the water contamination investigation in the region.

The Amherst site has been redeveloped as commercial space, and its water is now provided by Pennichuck Corp. The space now houses a number of businesses, including Atlas Fireworks, Aldine Interior Solutions Corp. and HandicappedPets.com.

Martin said the state will now begin the process of testing all of the private wells within a half-mile radius — an estimated 100 wells. The radius will be expanded if necessary, he said.

DES will contact property owners by mail to schedule a time to sample their water, according to Martin. Those test results will be necessary to determine whether state officials will recommend bottled water for all residents within the vicinity of the former plant.

About 400 properties in Litchfield and Merrimack are receiving bottled water because of elevated levels of PFOA in private wells near Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics in Merrimack — the company cited as the likely source of the contamination.

In Manchester, DES was unable to locate any private water wells within a one-mile radius of the TCI facility there. Manchester Water Works recently tested Lake Massabesic — the source of its public water supply — several miles from TCI, and found only background levels of PFOA at 3 ppt, according to a news release.

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