For Now, State Offers Blood Tests To A Handful Of Merrimack Residents

Mar 24, 2016

  More than 500 people showed up at a Merrimack Elementary School last night for the first public information meeting about a water contaminant found in private wells in the town.

There, the state’s Departments of Health and Human Services, and Environmental Services told the packed auditorium that the state would offer voluntary blood tests to the handful of residents whose wells test over a certain threshold. 

On Thursday, DHHS public information officer Jake Leon told NHPR "it's still early. It's hard to know what we're going to do."  

Two years ago when an almost identical chemical was found in wells at the former Pease Air Force Base, community members rallied to get blood testing for all individual exposed to the contaminated water.

This time in Merrimack, the contaminant was discovered in wells around the St. Gobain plastics plant early this month. 

During the meeting, state epidemiologist Ben Chan detailed links between these chemicals -- known as perfluorochemicals – and health affects. However, he warned, there is still much uncertainty around the chemicals’ effect on human health.

Although the federal Environmental Protection Agency does not regulate perfluorochemicals, the state is offering bottled water to residents whose well water tests above 100 parts per trillion. That threshold is five times higher than that provided by Vermont’s health department, dealing with a similar contamination near a St Gobain plant in Bennington.

CORRECTION: The broadcast version of this story misstated the state’s threshold for providing bottled water.  It is 100 parts per trillion; not parts per million. It also stated that officials are providing voluntary blood tests for all affected individuals. In fact, the state is only providing blood tests to individuals whose water concentrations are over 100 parts per trillion.