BOSTON (AP) — A chemical company agreed Monday to providing drinking water to about 1,000 properties in New Hampshire that showed elevated levels of toxic industrial compounds associated with serious health conditions.
The New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services and Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics announced the agreement for properties in the towns of Bedford, Hudson, Litchfield, Londonderry, and Merrimack. It also provides a framework should additional properties be impacted.
“Ensuring safe drinking water is something we take very seriously," Attorney General John Formella said in a statement. "This agreement is an important step forward in a continuing, multi-faceted effort to ensure impacted New Hampshire residents have access to clean drinking water.”
A spokesperson for Saint-Gobain didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.
The company, which bought the Merrimack plant from ChemFAB in 2000, initially believed it wasn’t emitting anything harmful. But the state said that changed in 2004 after the company installed more sophisticated technology and realized it was emitting the chemical. After the company alerted the state, DES determined Saint-Gobain was exceeding state air limits for the chemical, and the company agreed to significantly reduce emissions.
The state didn’t move to do any groundwater testing until 2016 because there was no indication at the time that the emissions posed a threat to groundwater. That came to light after wells near Saint-Gobain facilities in Hoosick Falls, New York, were found to be contaminated with PFOA. Wells Bennington and North Bennington, Vermont, also have since been found contaminated with PFOA around the company’s now-closed plant.
In 2019, the state lowered the standard for PFOA from 70 parts per trillion to 12 parts per trillion and launched an extensive well sampling program. It identified the 1,000 properties and determined the contamination was caused by emissions from a Saint-Gobain plant in Merrimack.
More than 350 impacted properties will received either a waterline connection or a treatment system. Saint-Gobain must propose an alternate water solution for the more than 600 remaining properties that have been offered bottled water.
Democratic Rep. Rosemarie Rung, who lives in Merrimack said she was pleased that the settlement was “bringing resolution for families who have suffered from contaminated water.”
But Rung expressed concerns that “there remains hundreds of families who are still on bottled water and many others without recourse” since they live beyond the area impacted by the consent decree but whose water was contaminated by Saint-Gobain.