Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances

The Social Discovery of a Class of Emerging Contaminants

Coakley Landfill/Pro-Wash Car Wash — North Hampton, Hampton, and Greenland, NH

Suspected source: (1) industrial waste dumped at Coakley Landfill, including incinerator waste from Pease Air Force Base. (2) Leeching of chemicals used in products at Pro-Wash Car Wash.

Now a federal Superfund site, the former Coakley Landfill received municipal and industrial waste from 1972 – 1982. As land-filling activities terminated between 1982 and 1985, the landfill received incinerator waste from the Portsmouth Refuse-to-Energy Facility at the Pease Air Force Base. The landfill was capped in 1998 to try and stop further groundwater contamination. (NH DES)

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Local officials and residents requested that owners of the landfill conduct testing after contamination at Pease AFB came to light. In response, the Coakley Landfill Group (a group of potentially responsible parties [PRPs]) collected water samples from 8 monitoring wells on or adjacent to the landfill, under EPA supervision, in May 2016.  These wells had been previously installed to monitor the potential impact of the landfill on groundwater. The preliminary sampling results, released in June 2016, showed that all 8 wells tested above the State standard of 70 parts per trillion (ppt), with combined PFOA and PFOS concentrations ranging from 71 ppt to 1108 ppt. (NH DES)

In response to the June sampling results by the Coakley Landfill Group, NHDES initiated sampling for the presence of PFAs in residential private drinking water wells nearby. Sixteen residential wells were sampled with five showing detections of PFAs. Three of the five wells had detections of perfluoroheptanoic acid, a suspected lab contaminant associated with the use of Teflon tubing; one well detected PFOS at 8.1 ppt; PFOA was detected in another well at 25 ppt. None of the PFAs concentrations in the wells exceed the established 70 ppt AGQS. (NH DES)

To further understand the extent of PFCs in groundwater, the Coakley Landfill Group completed expanded sampling of PFAs in 20 additional monitoring wells outside of the landfill footprint. The results, which went under third party review after their release in August 2016, showed combined PFOA and PFOS concentrations ranging from less than 1 ppt to 1133 ppt, with 9 of 20 wells sampled indicating concentrations above the AGQS of 70 ppt. (NH DES)

In October 2017, EPA released a report on the Coakley landfill stating “there is not a current unacceptable human health risk at the site.” Despite the high concentrations of PFAs in surface waters near the Superfund cleanup site, the EPA report did not recommend remediation of the chemicals. The report also ordered the Coakley Landfill Group to conduct an investigation into the flow of groundwater in deep water bedrock at the site (McMenemy).

Water samples in private residential wells have all tested below the 70 ppt standard.

In February 2016, the NH DHHS confirmed its identification of a cancer cluster on the NH Seacoast for two rare pediatric cancers. State Rep. Mindi Messmer, D-Rye, who chaired a subcommittee on the Coakley landfill, noted during a March 2018 interview that the landfill “lies geographically right smack in the middle of this cancer cluster.”

Coakley Landfill Group agreed in 2016 to pay up to $200,000 to reimburse developer Eric Chinburg for his cost to extend a water line to a new development being built near the Superfund cleanup site. But the Group has consistently refused to extend municipal water to other residents living near the landfill in North Hampton and Greenland. As of April 2018, Portsmouth taxpayers have already funded $107,102 for their share of the cost to run a municipal water line to the new development in Greenland. (McMenemy)

In March 2018, New Hampshire Fish and Game issued a “catch and release only” emergency rule for Berry’s Brook, “because of concern regarding contaminants leaching into the water from the Coakley landfill site.” (McMenemy)


Additional Resources:

Media Coverage:

Full citations are available on the second page of the full contamination site tracker. We ask for your additions, changes, questions and comments be sent to pfasproject@gmail.com.

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