Water Contamination | New Hampshire Public Radio

Water Contamination

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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.

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 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.

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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.

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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.

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.

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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.

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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.)

Via Kearsarge.org

A New Hampshire school district will test all its drinking water after one faucet was found to have high levels of a toxic chemical that has raised health concerns.

Kearsarge Regional School District Superintendent Winfried Feneberg said Tuesday the district shut down all faucets at the middle school and is providing bottled water.

The moves come after one faucet at the middle school was found to have levels of the chemical known as PFOA at 153 parts per trillion, well above the state drinking water standard.

Annie Ropeik / NHPR

The state holds a public hearing tonight about a new air emissions permit for the Saint-Gobain plastics factory in Merrimack. The facility is being held responsible for contaminating nearby drinking water with PFAS chemicals from its smokestacks.

The proposed air permit would dictate pollution controls for those stacks to prevent more chemicals from settling into soil and groundwater.

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As the state works toward sharply lowering its limit on arsenic in drinking water by mid-2021, recent testing data shows dozens of public water systems will likely be out of compliance with that new standard.

New Hampshire is only the second state, after New Jersey, where lawmakers have approved a lower arsenic standard of 5 parts per billion. That’s half of the current federal default of 10 ppb.

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Senator Jeanne Shaheen will be in Portsmouth Friday to talk about an upcoming federal health study on the effects of PFAS chemicals.

The Centers for Disease Control are piloting their first national PFAS study on people who were exposed to the compounds at Pease International Tradeport.

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New Hampshire was hit with a lawsuit over its new limits on PFAS chemicals in drinking water on the same day the new regulation took effect.

The suit, filed in Merrimack Superior Court, comes from the Plymouth Village Water and Sewer District, a farmer in Center Harbor and a fertilizer company in Holderness, as well as 3M, the original maker of PFAS compounds.

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A trial run of the first major federal health study on PFAS chemicals is ready to begin at Pease International Tradeport.

Senator Jeanne Shaheen's office said Thursday that the project at the former air base in Portsmouth had received final approval from federal budget officials.

High levels of PFAS were found in drinking water at Pease in 2014. Research has linked the industrial chemicals to a range of diseases.

Sarah Gibson for NHPR

This summer, towns in southern New Hampshire are breaking ground on what will become the state’s largest regional water system. It is being built in part with money from massive settlements between New Hampshire and gas companies, including ExxonMobil, that used to produce MtBE, a chemical that polluted local drinking water. 

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New restrictions on PFAS and what that means for Granite State communities. These chemicals have been found in public water supplies around the state. Used for decades in such products as Teflon and Gortex, they've been linked to serious health problems, spurring communities to take action, including lawsuits. Now, after intense pressure from community activists, New Hampshire officials have proposed some of the lowest PFAS limits in the country. We'll find out what's in store now, in terms of testing, following the health effects of these chemicals, and more. 

Michigan.gov

State environmental officials on Friday proposed what would be some of the lowest limits in the country for four types of PFAS chemicals in public water supplies and groundwater.

Annie Ropeik / NHPR

Regulators say there aren't unsafe or increasing levels of PFAS chemical contamination in drinking water wells around the Seacoast's Coakley Landfill.

But many residents and state legislators disagree with that analysis – and they’re unhappy that contamination hasn’t been addressed more quickly at the Superfund site.

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The U.S. Senate will vote next month to fund more regulation and study of the effects of PFAS chemical contamination

Many of the provisions come from New Hampshire Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, who helped get the policies included in the latest National Defense Authorization Act.

The full Senate is expected take up the annual spending bill in the coming weeks. The provisions include a ban on military use of firefighting foams that contain PFAS after 2022.

Sarah Gibson for NHPR

Residents in southern New Hampshire could be looking at higher water bills because of a new federal tax on private water utilities.

Annie Ropeik for NHPR

Public comment closes today on New Hampshire’s proposed limits for four types of toxic PFAS chemicals in drinking water.

The Department of Environmental Services has suggested recent science from Minnesota could lead to stricter standards for testing and treatment of PFAS at public water systems.

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Public water system operators are worried about the cost of compliance with new state limits on PFAS chemicals in drinking water.

That was the message from lobbyists at a hearing on the proposals today in Concord.

The PFAS limits the state is proposing would require testing and treatment for the toxic chemicals at public water systems. The up-front cost could be at least $8 million total.

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Public hearings begin this week on the state's proposed drinking water regulations for toxic PFAS chemicals.

Regulators have devised standards for four types of PFAS. They would require all public water systems to regularly test and potentially treat for the chemicals.

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New England activists and lawmakers say the Environmental Protection Agency's new plan to manage harmful PFAS chemicals isn't aggressive enough.

The EPA says this plan is a broad roadmap of goals for protecting people from exposure to the huge class of likely toxic PFAS chemicals.

These industrial chemicals were used for decades to make non-stick, waterproof and stain-resistant coatings, as well as firefighting foams and other industrial products.

Annie Ropeik for NHPR

The EPA says new types of nonstick industrial chemicals might not be much safer than their predecessors – raising alarm in parts of New Hampshire.

For years, companies used fluorinated chemicals like PFOA and PFOS to make nonstick, waterproof or stain-resistant products.

Now, science suggests those chemicals can harm human health even at very low levels.

So industry has replaced them with similar compounds called GenX. They're all part of the PFAS family.

Ceyhun (Jay) Isik / https://flic.kr/p/cG7qFL

Right now, state regulators are doing something they almost never do: writing their own limit on a chemical contaminant in drinking water.

It's called a maximum contaminant level, or MCL. In the past, like most states, New Hampshire has used federal standards as its default MCLs.

State regulators say they wrote one other drinking water standard, for the lead-based gasoline additive MTBE, in 2000. 

Screenshot via US Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee

The U.S. Senate held a major hearing on PFAS chemical contamination Wednesday, with testimony from a local advocate.

New Hampshire Sen. Maggie Hassan, who sits on the Senate subcommittee that held the hearing, and Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, who was a guest, questioned federal regulators for two hours.

They pushed for answers on the government's plans for more PFAS research, stricter standards and cleanup plans.

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New Hampshire schools have until next summer to get in compliance with the state’s new lead testing law. But advocates hope schools won’t wait to begin the process.

Exposure to almost any amount of lead can cause developmental delays and other health issues in young children.

Town of Merrimack

The state has confirmed unsafe levels of PFAS chemical contamination at a town park and former industrial site in Merrimack.

This comes nearly a year after the site's owner first reported finding the toxins in groundwater at the former chemical plant and tannery.

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