Read the full article by Ethan DeWitt (Concord Monitor)
“When traces of potentially dangerous chemicals were found in the groundwater near New Hampshire Fire Academy in Concord last year, state officials were quick to clarify that the city’s drinking water would not be affected.
But the find was still a warning bell. For years, Granite State residents and agencies have been waking up to the potential risks from ingesting per- and polyfluoroalkyl chemicals, often referred to as PFAs, after large quantities were found in 2014 in water surrounding the Pease Air Force Base in Portsmouth.
The reach of the chemicals went beyond the Seacoast. Older stocks of firefighting foam containing PFAs can be found in fire departments across the state; last year’s detection at New Hampshire Fire Academy came after decades of using the foam during training there.
Now, state lawmakers are hoping to rein in the chemicals. A law signed by Gov. Chris Sununu would require fire departments to turn over older stocks of firefighting foam to the state, prohibit them from purchasing more foam containing PFAs, and restrict them from using existing foam except in specific circumstances.
And the fire departments say they’re happy to oblige.
‘I think that we’re forcing departments and industry to change quicker with this law,’ said Bill McQuillen, president of the Professional Fire Fighters of New Hampshire. ‘I think we know that this stuff is bad and it contaminates our environment and we’ve got to do a better job of making sure we’re not putting it into the environment needlessly.’
Senate Bill 257 will prevent ‘Class B’ firefighting foam containing PFAs from being used for firefighting or training and prohibit its sale or distribution.
Towns and cities must gather any older stock – known as ‘legacy stock’ – and prepare to hand them over to the state Department of Environmental Services. And the new law stipulates that fire departments will only be immune from lawsuits over the use of those foams if they were used unintentionally or in emergencies.
The law contains exceptions, particularly for large storage houses and airports, which are for now bound by federal law to carry the PFAs-containing firefighting foams, which are effective in extinguishing fires fueled by flammable liquids.
Tuesday’s bill signing represents a leap overall toward tighter regulation over the chemicals, just as the state readies for a lawsuit against a major manufacturer of the chemical and as public concern continues to grow. In a statement, Sununu called the bill ‘a continuation of our efforts to ensure that New Hampshire is preventing further proliferation of PFAs chemicals in our environment.’
Studies have shown that PFAs, a supercategory comprising about 3,000 different chemicals, can remain in the body for years after ingestion and lead to a string of serious health conditions, affecting reproductive and immune systems and in some cases causing cancer.
Earlier this year, New Hampshire’s Department of Environmental Services proposed ambitious new upper limits on allowable levels of PFAs in drinking water – the most restrictive in the country. And the state is presently suing eight companies, including 3M and DuPont, for allegedly using the chemicals in their products despite knowing the risks…”