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Litchfield Town Manager on PFOA: Residents Concerned About Health, Home Values

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Ceyhun (Jay) Isik
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State environmental officials continue to investigate to what extent drinking water systems in southern New Hampshire have been contaminated with the chemical known as PFOA.

More water sample results are expected soon, as the state now says Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics in Merrimack is likely the source of that contamination.

The community that’s been most affected is the town of Litchfield, across the Merrimack River from the plant.

Nearly two-dozen private wells in the town have tested for high levels of PFOA.

Troy Brown is town manager of Litchfield, where a meeting will be held Thursday at 7 p.m. at Campbell High School to discuss the water investigation.

He joined NHPR's Morning Edition. 

What have you been hearing from residents? What are their concerns?

We had an informational meeting on March 24. Residents’ concerns ranged from what impact this would have on their health, what the impact would be on the value of their homes, their concern about exposure, whether it’s just from consumption of the water or eating their backyard vegetables or vegetables grown at some of our local farms could contaminate them. Bringing their kids to the playground or parks was a concern, too. I hope that this evening we’ll probably learn more about what the state is proposing to do or require of Saint-Gobain as they lay out the scope of the investigative work so we can start to find some answers.

With these concerns that residents have, are you hearing from them that they're not waiting to hear from DES, and they're not using the water from their wells?

I’m not hearing that yet. New Hampshire DES has been very proactive. They’ve been communicating with me almost on a daily basis. Once they discovered they had a problem, they acted very quickly, making sure town officials were aware, scheduling the informational meetings, and most importantly, the state was able to get bottled water to homeowners that tested higher than the 100 parts per trillion, the threshold that New Hampshire DES has established as a cautionary measure.

That's something we're going to need to monitor. It's definitely a concern. - Litchfield Town Manager Troy Brown on declining home values

It was actually Saint-Gobain that brought this to the state’s attention, which started the investigation. Is there a sense the state should have been watching for this, or that it could have been caught earlier?

I’m really not in a position to be able to make a comment about that. I’m just glad Saint-Gobain brought the information to the state, that the state acted quickly, and that we’re all working together now to resolve this as quickly as possible.

As we know, the enforcement letter just came out April 1, and that was a substantial letter. It has very aggressive requirements for Saint-Gobain to meet in a very short time frame. Most importantly, there’s a work plan that Saint-Gobain would need to submit to the state by May 1. That work plan would be how they’re going to address the water contamination and if it’s going to be the extension and construction of new public water lines.

There’s been concern expressed by residents about what impact this could have on the town, particularly when it comes to the value of their homes. What are your concerns for the town, long-term?

That’s something we’re going to need to monitor. It’s definitely a concern. But again, if we’re able to provide drinking water to homes that may or may not cause a decrease in the value of their homes. That will be something we will monitor. We’ll monitor sales in the neighborhoods, just like we do for other parts of the neighborhoods in our towns.