Read the full article by Ryan Lessard (New Hampshire Union Leader)

“Eight households with elevated levels of dangerous PFAS in their well water will have to stay on bottled water for the time being as steps to install new filtration systems have been put on hold while the state deals with the COVID-19 crisis.

While most staff from the state Department of Environmental Services have begun working from home, the process of designing and approving new home filtration systems planned for Lancaster Drive are continuing, but social distancing guidelines also make home installations impossible.

‘Unfortunately right now everything is on hold,’ Town Manager Kevin Smith told the Union Leader. ‘This PFAS issue is a very important issue and it’s not something that we’re going to allow to be put on the back burner, but obviously a large portion of our efforts is on combating the COVID-19 issue in the town.’

The filters are being designed by Cooperstown Environmental on behalf of the Apple Tree Shopping Center, but DES has to approve the designs.

‘Most NHDES staff are working remotely. While this provides for some challenges, it is not expected to cause any significant delay in reviewing and approving the work plans,’ DES spokesman Jim Martin said in an email.

The discovery of PFAS chemicals exceeding state standards (of 11, 12, 15 and 18 parts per trillion, depending on the specific compound) at eight residential properties on Lancaster Drive happened when test results came back in November 2019.

The home wells were tested after elevated PFAS levels were discovered at a monitoring well at the site of the Apple Tree Shopping Center’s old septic system in July 2019.

George Vernet, the owner of the Apple Tree Shopping Center since June 2018, said the site was previously being tested for cleaning solvents from a former dry cleaning business that was in the plaza, and DES directed them to begin testing for PFAS last year.

While Vernet said it’s unclear if the Apple Tree Shopping Center property is the sole source of the PFAS spill, it’s presumed to be a significant contributor, and he is cooperating with state officials to clean up the mess he unwittingly inherited.

So far, he has already spent over $250,000 to replace the old septic system and about $100,000 for water tests through Cooperstown Environmental, and he intends to spend about $5,000 to $6,000 per filtration system that needs to be installed.

The shopping plaza was connected to the public sewer last fall, which was already a long-planned project, Vernet said. It has been on public water for years.

He said the discovery of PFAS came as a surprise after DES directed the shopping center to test for it.

‘I didn’t even know what it was. I hadn’t heard of it,’ Vernet said.

Multiple residential wells on Lancaster Drive and Baldwin Road have since been tested and retested. So far, only eight properties on Lancaster Drive showed levels exceeding state standards.

Vernet said one household took it upon itself to pay for its own point-of-entry filter systems in two parts of the home. So far, Vernet said, initial tests show the filters are doing their job and the water is clean.

But for the rest of the households waiting for Vernet to pay for filtration systems, nobody can say for certain when that process will begin. For now, these households will continue receiving bottled water paid for by Vernet’s company, Vernco Apple LLC…”