“MERRIMACK — A group of water warriors has emerged in Merrimack, claiming not enough is being done to keep residents safe from contamination.

Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics says it is committed to being a good neighbor and is working with the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services to install municipal water extensions to the hundreds of properties with wells contaminated by perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA). But frustration continues among residents and the local moms who formed Merrimack Citizens for Clean Water.

Nancy Murphy, a local retired nurse with six children, said the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency must start mandating PFOA and PFAS levels, arguing that the days of suggestions and advisories are over.

She said one of her sons has Graves’ disease, and one of her daughters has endocrine and gestational disorders.

‘They can never figure out what the triggers are,’ said Murphy, whose husband suffered with prostate cancer. ‘None of us can say the PFAS chemicals caused this, but we can’t say that it didn’t.’

And even though private wells near Saint-Gobain with contamination over 70 ppt are being offered public water extensions, Murphy compared it to switching seats on the Titanic, saying the Merrimack Village District’s (MVD) public water still has contaminants ranging up to 22 ppt of PFOA.

Saint-Gobain, with a local plant at 685 Daniel Webster Highway, has offered to treat two of MVD’s public wells that are currently offline because of high contamination.

Ron Miner, superintendent of MVD, said its engineers and consultants are working diligently to design and install treatment on the two wells currently out of service because of PFOA. The agreement between Saint-Gobain and MVD signed in March will allow MVD to have the treatment plant up and running in the spring of 2020, weather permitting, according to Miner…

Katharine Hodge has lived in Merrimack since 2002, utilizing MVD’s public water.

Recently, within a span of one year, Hodge was diagnosed with cancer twice. She had surgery in October 2016 to remove a tumor on her kidney, and in September 2017 she had lymphoma surgery; her 13-year-old daughter has asthma and various hormonal issues.

‘Clearly there is a problem when the health advisory for PFOA was once 400 ppt, was lowered to 100 and then lowered again to 70,’ said Hodge. ‘And now I am scared and also relieved that a new science study is admitting there is a problem and possibly suggesting even lower (levels), but I worry that DES isn’t going to do anything about it’…

In the past two years, DES has taken nearly 3,000 drinking water samples from about 40 active investigation sites statewide.

‘By far the largest and most complex is the one centered on Saint-Gobain,’ said Clark Freise, assistant commissioner of DES. So far, about 500 homes with private wells have been hooked up to municipal water, and when all is done, about 750 homes will be connected in southern New Hampshire, he said.

He acknowledged that Saint-Gobain already paid to have 400 homes connected prior to having the consent decree in place, but did agree that there was a delay in the Merrimack response because of some disputed areas…

Finlay Rothhaus, chairman of the Merrimack Town Council, said he is concerned about the PFOA problem, and is anxious for the EPA to set a new standard…

‘These things are so prevalent around the world. It is just one of those very difficult things to prove,’ he said, adding the town does not have deep pockets like large companies such as Saint-Gobain. He said MVD would have more jurisdiction over a potential lawsuit since it is the water district’s public wells that have been affected.

Don Provencher is one of five commissioners with MVD. Speaking personally, and not for the entire MVD board, Provencher said there have been discussions with Underwood Engineers, the MVD’s water supply and treatment consultant, about the possibility of treating all of MVD’s public wells for PFAS.

Last month, commissioners authorized Underwood to commence a proposed feasibility study to evaluate PFAS treatment alternatives, including Granular Activated Carbon, Ion Exchange and Advanced Oxidation, or any combination thereof, to reduce PFAS at all of MVD’s wells.

He stressed that the commissioners and MVD are determined to get ahead of the changing regulations instead of waiting for EPA or DES mandates.”

Read the full article by Kimberly Houghton