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State Consent Decree Gives Saint-Gobain More Time For PFAS Upgrades At Merrimack Factory

Annie Ropeik / NHPR

The state and the Saint-Gobain plastics factory in Merrimack will settle a dispute over chemical treatment technology with a consent decree.

The agreement, filed Friday in Hillsborough County Superior Court, comes after the factory missed a February deadline to make upgrades that would prevent excess emissions of toxic PFAS chemicals.

The industrial compounds, linked to a range of health problems, were found to have contaminated hundreds of local drinking water wells in 2016.

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The agreement requires the company to install a new air stack treatment system for PFAS by July 30. Saint-Gobain can seek extensions if permits for the project are delayed, as the company has alleged they have been by the town of Merrimack. The town has argued Saint-Gobain is to blame.

Until the new system is installed, the factory will have to significantly reduce its operating hours and cut its emissions of PFOA, one type of PFAS, by at least 42% over 2018 levels.

The state is fining Saint-Gobain $200,000 for missing the February deadline, with half of that waived if the company complies with the decree. Saint-Gobain will have to submit monthly status reports to the state while the required changes are in progress.

The state is also requiring the company to complete a study, by June 2022, of how PFAS air emissions build up in rainwater around the facility and deposit into soil and groundwater.

The town of Merrimack is still suing Saint-Gobain over this same issue. Also Friday, the state overruled a cease-and-desist order the town sought to impose on the factory earlier this month.

Town council chair Tom Koenig expressed disappointment about the developments when reached Friday evening, but said local officials needed time to review the filings before commenting in detail.

Annie has covered the environment, energy, climate change and the Seacoast region for NHPR since 2017. She leads the newsroom's climate reporting project, By Degrees.
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