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New Hampshire’s U.S. senators are asking federal regulators to allow state and local governments to spend pandemic stimulus funds on addressing PFAS chemical contamination.

Senators Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan joined a bipartisan group making the request to theTreasury Department this week.

Annie Ropeik / NHPR

The state says it hasn't been following its own rules in notifying people of potential water contamination near the Saint-Gobain plastics factory in Merrimack.

Regulators say they’re working to correct the problem and think most affected properties are already aware of the issue. But citizen advocates are worried that some in the area may be unknowingly drinking contaminated water as a result of the lapse.

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.

Pease Air National Guard tower
Dan Tuohy / NHPR

At the former Pease Air Base in Portsmouth, scientists are resuming a pair of pioneering research studies on chemical contamination in drinking water. It could provide some of the best evidence to date of risks posed by the industrial compounds known as PFAS. 

But despite more than a year of effort, organizers say they're having trouble recruiting enough families to join, which could hamper efforts to treat a growing public health crisis.

Annie Ropeik / NHPR

Federal officials say they’ve definitively linked three contaminated water wells in Greenland to the Seacoast’s Coakley Landfill Superfund site.

The Environmental Protection Agency gave a public update on the site Wednesday night, for the first time since 2019.

Annie Ropeik / NHPR

After years of efforts to address toxic chemical emissions from the Saint-Gobain plastics factory in Merrimack, New Hampshire and the town are separately suing the company for delays in the installation of a required treatment system.

The lawsuits filed this week in Hillsborough Superior Court focus on air emissions of harmful PFAS chemicals, which have settled into drinking water serving hundreds of homes in the area.

FLORIANHUAG / FLICKR/CC

A new state loan program aims to help towns comply with strict new limits on a kind of toxic chemicals in drinking water - industrial PFAS chemicals, which have caused widespread contamination in the state.

The $50 million loan fund is designed to cover the testing and treatment required under the state's new PFAS drinking water standards.

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New Hampshire wants the Air Force to cover the cost of drinking water assistance for three homes near the former Pease Air Base with PFAS chemical contamination in their home wells.

It's the latest escalation in a dispute over whether the Air Force has to follow New Hampshire's new limits on PFAS in drinking water as part of ongoing groundwater cleanup around Pease. 

Weekly N.H. News Roundup: November 13, 2020

Nov 12, 2020

Earlier this month, the mayors of the state’s thirteen cities appealed to the governor for help addressing homelessness. We speak with Mayor Joyce Craig of Manchester about what’s needed. Coos County is now seeing the highest rate of community transmission of COVID-19 in the state, with over 400 new cases per 100,000 residents. We hear from Berlin Mayor Paul Grenier. Plus, who is supposed to pay for PFAS cleanup costs around the former Pease Air Force Base? And we remember the Mount Washington Observatory’s famous cat, Marty.  Air date: Friday, Nov. 13, 2020.  

Loon.org

New Hampshire is suing the giant agrochemical company Monsanto for allegedly knowingly causing water contamination with cancer-causing chemicals called PCBs, which have tainted fish and harmed loon populations across the state.

Thursday marks the restart of widespread testing for PFAS chemicals in New Hampshire’s public water supplies, after a year-long delay due to a lawsuit from PFAS-maker 3M.

PFAS are industrial chemicals, widely found in groundwater and linked to health problems including liver and kidney disease, high cholesterol and reproductive, developmental and immune issues, as well as potentially some cancers.

Annie Ropeik / NHPR

The state has denied a request from the Saint-Gobain plastics factory in Merrimack for extra time to make upgrades that will control PFAS chemical emissions.

The facility’s air emissions of PFAS were found to have settled into hundreds of local water wells at unsafe levels in 2016.

FLORIANHUAG / FLICKR/CC

Governor Chris Sununu has signed an omnibus bill that will reinstate new drinking water standards for toxic PFAS chemicals.

Democrats hailed the signature of the bill, which was opposed by some business groups. The legislation enacts some of the strictest PFAS drinking water standards of any of the handful of states that have such rules.

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Congresswoman Annie Kuster is co-sponsoring a new plan to add toxic PFAS chemical standards to the next federal defense spending bill.

The amendment mirrors a bill that passed the House earlier this year. Speaking on a press call Tuesday, Kuster said that bill has stalled in the Senate.

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A new study, commissioned by advocates in New Hampshire, shows that most firefighters’ protective gear is treated extensively with toxic PFAS chemicals.  

Scientists at the University of Notre Dame picked up the issue, with funding from the National Science Foundation and the firefighter-focused Last Call Foundation, after a request by a Granite State couple.

Heather Hayward / U.S. Air Force

A new bill sponsored by Sen. Jeanne Shaheen would help military families get tested for PFAS chemical exposure.

The proposal would cover people who are or were stationed at hundreds of military installations with PFAS contamination.

PFAS are toxic chemicals that persist in the environment and were used in a kind of firefighting foam that is still stockpiled on many bases.

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A state Senate committee signed off this week on a package of bills designed to address PFAS chemical contamination. 

The new omnibus bill got bipartisan support and combines several proposals from the House and Senate. 

It would re-authorize the state's tight new limits on four kinds of PFAS, industrial chemicals linked to health problems. 

Joe Pell via Flickr Creative Commons

A new report identifies 2,500 new industrial sites that may be discharging toxic PFAS chemicals, including a handful of factories in New Hampshire.

Some kinds of PFAS have been phased out of American manufacturing - but other, similar chemicals have taken their place.

The substances are largely unregulated, don’t break down in the environment, and have been linked to health problems at low levels.

John K via Flickr CC

A new bill in Congress would give states $20 billion over the next 10 years to test and treat their water supplies for toxic PFAS chemicals.

New Hampshire Sen. Jeanne Shaheen is a lead sponsor of the Democratic legislation, along with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York and Delaware Sen. Tom Carper.

Andreas Levers via Flickr CC

The state Senate passed two key bills on PFAS chemical contamination Thursday.

One bill, which passed unanimously, would re-establish new state rules that set limits on PFAS in drinking water. These limits were the strictest of their kind in the country at the time.

NHPR

A plan to offer loans for New Hampshire towns to cover the cost of new limits on PFAS chemicals in drinking water got bipartisan support from state lawmakers Tuesday.

The state's strict PFAS limits were supposed to take effect last fall, but are on hold under a court injunction.

The Saint-Gobain plastics factory in Merrimack says it will continue voluntarily complying – in part – with the state’s halted PFAS chemical limits.

New Hampshire’s strict standards for the toxic chemicals are on hold under a court injunction.

Annie Ropeik / NHPR

The Air Force says it will study whether people stationed at Pease Air Base in recent decades got cancer at unusually high rates.

Former service members have been calling for a study like this for more than a year.

Annie Ropeik / NHPR News

Candidates campaigning in the final stretch of the New Hampshire presidential primary are redoubling their focus on environmental issues that have long been priorities for local voters.

Janet Bland via Flickr Creative Commons / https://flic.kr/p/22SfbXM

New Hampshire legislators this session will consider requiring bottled water brands in the state to be tested and labeled for toxic PFAS chemicals.

The industrial compounds have been linked to health problems and can persist in the environment, but aren't subject to binding federal regulations.

Last year, New Hampshire regulators found high levels of PFAS chemicals in local bottled water brands sourced from a spring in Massachusetts.

Allie Gutierrez for NHPR

New Hampshire Public Radio covered thousands of stories in 2019. Some stories offered closure, while others still await a final chapter.

Dan Tuohy / NHPR

The state of New Hampshire says it will not require that public water supplies be tested for toxic PFAS chemicals by the end of the year, contrary to earlier advice.

The state’s strict new PFAS standards will be suspended Dec. 31 under a court injunction, after industry and municipal groups challenged the rules earlier this fall.

Pease AFB

A major defense spending package will not include two key regulations for toxic PFAS chemicals – which have polluted water across New Hampshire.

The National Defense Authorization Act, set for final votes this week, does carry other provisions that New Hampshire's congressional delegation supported, including a plan to give 12 weeks of paid parental leave to federal employees.

The spending plan also says the military must phase out use of PFAS-based firefighting foam, which has contaminated drinking water at hundreds of sites including the former Pease Air Force Base.

Andreas Levers via Flickr CC

A judge has ruled that New Hampshire will have to stop enforcing its strict new limits on PFAS chemicals at the end of the year – but the case is far from settled.

Merrimack Superior Court judge Richard McNamara’s ruling, which was provided to NHPR, grants an injunction requested by the major chemical company and PFAS-maker 3M, as well as local stakeholders.

But it won’t take effect until Dec. 31, the judge writes, “so that either party may seek immediate review of this decision in the New Hampshire Supreme Court.”

(Read the full ruling below.)

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