Answers Needed on NH Water Contamination

WASHINGTON, D.C. – (RealEstateRama) — Following a recent meeting she held with town officials from several New Hampshire communities experiencing water contamination by the chemical perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), US Senator Kelly Ayotte wrote a follow up letter to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Friday raising several questions and concerns, as well as renewing her call for the Administration to expedite the release of a new health advisory standard for PFOA. She also urged EPA officials to participate in all public meetings regarding water contamination issues in New Hampshire going forward.

“My constituents shared with me that there are multiple types of tests used to measure the PFOA level in water,” wrote Ayotte. “…Given the confusion that exists, I encourage the Administration to set a standard testing practice for measuring the level of PFOA in water so that test results will be uniform and directly comparable.”

She continued, “I again urge you to expedite the determination and release of the new health advisory standard so that residents know whether their water is safe, local officials are able to respond to concerned residents, and water treatment professionals working to design treatment systems have a clearly defined objective. The current patchwork of advisories and action levels set by the EPA and individual states creates uncertainty and adds to public concern. It is imperative the communities trying to address these issues have the most current information.”

The full text of the letter is below.

April 15, 2016

Dear Administrator McCarthy:

I write regarding the perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) water contamination several cities and towns in New Hampshire are experiencing. Recently, I met with officials from the communities of Merrimack, Litchfield, Bedford and Londonderry, as well as the Merrimack Village District (MVD), who shared with me an update on this situation, as well as many concerns.

My constituents shared with me that there are multiple types of tests used to measure the PFOA level in water. I understand there is a 537 test, as well as a 537 modified test, and that the sensitivity of the tests is different. They also shared with me that one test measures PFOA levels down to 5 parts per trillion (ppt), while the other effectively measures only down to 20 ppt. Given the confusion that exists, I encourage the Administration to set a standard testing practice for measuring the level of PFOA in water so that test results will be uniform and directly comparable.

The New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services (NHDES) recently announced it would expand its testing scope for private wells within a 1.5-mile radius of the Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics facility in Merrimack. Additionally, I understand bottled water is being distributed to Litchfield residents who live within a one-mile radius of Saint-Gobain’s facility, as well as to those residents whose well tests have shown levels of more than 100 ppt of PFOA. The increase in residents receiving bottled water is a precautionary measure due to the significant delay in receiving test results for residents’ water. It has been communicated to me that there is a bottleneck of testing results due to the small handful of facilities currently testing for PFOA levels in water and NHDES informed residents not to expect more than 20 test results released per day. What is the capacity of the current PFOA testing infrastructure within the EPA and in the private sector currently available to the EPA, States, Municipalities, Water System Operators and homeowner?

As you recall, on March 28, 2016, I wrote you asking for the expedited release of the new health advisory standard for PFOA. I again urge you to expedite the determination and release of the new health advisory standard so that residents know whether their water is safe, local officials are able to respond to concerned residents, and water treatment professionals working to design treatment systems have a clearly defined objective. The current patchwork of advisories and action levels set by the EPA and individual states creates uncertainty and adds to public concern. It is imperative the communities trying to address these issues have the most current information.

Finally, I understand EPA staff have not attended and participated in all public meetings regarding water contamination issues in New Hampshire thus far. Going forward, I respectfully request that EPA send appropriate staff to any public meetings to help answer questions and address concerns that local residents may have.

Thank you for your attention to this critically important matter, I look forward to your timely response.

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