Is Your Well within One Mile of the Saint-Gobain Plant?

April 1, 2016


by Len Lathrop

One hundred and eighty-eight wells in Litchfield will be tested; however, at Thursday the 24th’s meeting at the Litchfield Middle School there seemed to be a lot of unknowns.  But what is known seems to not be good, as perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA, is in wells in both Litchfield and Merrimack.  Also known is that it came from the Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics Plant.  Also known is that some studies about effects on people have associated the chemical with high cholesterol, thyroid disease, ulcerative colitis, testicular cancer, kidney cancer, pregnancy-induced hypertension and even more; but that the effects of long-term exposure to PFOA are not fully known.

Perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA, a perfluorochemcial (PFC), is part of a family of manmade chemicals that were used for decades as ingredients to make products that resist heat, oil, stains, grease, and water, such as non-stick cookware, weather-resistant outdoor clothing and gear, and stain-resistant carpeting.  Many chemicals in this group, including PFOA, are commonly present in the environment and do not break down easily.

Dr. Ben Chan, a medical doctor, when speaking about PFOA, told the audience of over 250 people that the half-life is four years.  While these chemicals have been used in manufacturing for many years, little hard data seems to be available and the fact that EPA has not set any lifetime standards finds people in the one mile radius of the Merrimack manufacturing plant, whose wells have tested above 100 parts per trillion, will be drinking bottled water from the state.

While all the slides that were presented on Thursday night were to be on the DES website as of Tuesday afternoon, there were only two white paper types of reports available.  The second post indicated that 59 results from wells that were tested had been received.  Directly from the DES website, “Test Results:  The water well samples were collected on March 18 through the 21st, within a 1-mile radius from the Saint-Gobain facility in Merrimack.  The results from this round show levels of PFOA ranging from no detection to 830 parts per trillion.  Of the 59 results received, 17 wells showed PFOA levels above 100 parts per trillion (ppt) ranging from 110 ppt to 830 ppt.  In total, 20 water wells have tested above 100 ppt since the investigation began.  Previous test results from the Merrimack Village Water District ranged from 17 to 90 parts per trillion.”

On the Litchfield side of the river from graphs (photo of drawing included in this story) shown on Thursday night that the highest concentration was found in the two wells at the Dar-Col Horse stables; the level was 350 ppt.  This drawing is from Thursday’s meeting and the result received by DES is not incorporated.

Many questions remain unanswered with the only answers that residents truly got from the state were 1) there is a concern, without any lifetime level for people yet established, we just don’t know, but we will test all the wells in a 1-mile radius of the plant and if your well tests above 100 ppt then the state will provide you with bottled drinking water.  2) when asked about native-grown produce bring affected there was no clear answer.  3) How will this effect property values?  Again, no clear answer.

For residents who receive water from the municipal water system operated by Pennichuck, those wells have been tested and came back at 7 and 9 ppt.  This is the water that is in the Hudson water; the water used in the Hudson municipal system is supplied by the wells owned by Hudson in Litchfield.

Both Senator Kelly Ayotte and Governor Maggie Hassan have written to Washington asking the EPA to quantify the health standards.  From the senator’s press release:  “U.S. Senator Kelly Ayotte today wrote to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy urging her to expedite the release of a new health advisory standard for the chemical perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) following reports of water contamination in several cities and towns across New Hampshire.”

“Due to the increasing number of impacted communities, the unknown potential health effects related to using water contaminated by PFOA, and the conflicting standards as to what level of PFOA should prompt water treatment or use of an alternative water source, I urge EPA to expedite the determination and release of the new health advisory standard for PFOA as soon as possible,” wrote Senator Ayotte.

The EPA has identified PFOA as an “emerging contaminate,” and, in 2009, the agency issued a provisional health advisory for drinking water of 400 ppt for PFOA.  New Hampshire residents concerned with this emerging contaminate have learned that in the State of New York, the EPA has set an “action level” of 100 ppt of PFOA, and further the State of Maine has set a health advisory level of 100 ppt and the State of Vermont has set a health advisory level of 20 ppt.  These varying levels have created great uncertainty among the public regarding what PFOA level is safe for use and consumption.”

From Governor Hassan’s press release:  “Governor Maggie Hassan, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo of New York and Governor Peter Shumlin of Vermont officially requested that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency conduct a review of the best available science regarding perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), in order to assess and ensure the safety of drinking water exposed to the contaminant.  Additionally, the Governors called for full federal funding of the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund and the Clean Water Revolving Fund, which are critical tools for supporting state efforts to upgrade drinking water infrastructure.

Governor Hassan, NY Governor Cuomo and VT Governor Shumlin urge the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to review and issue new PFOA guidelines for safe drinking water

Only one Litchfield Selectman, Brett Lemire, lives in the one-mile circle.  When emails were traded on Monday of this week, Selectman Lemire had the following comment:  “Yes, my well was tested over a week ago but I have not gotten the results back yet.  We are 3 houses up from DarCol stables and DES tested all of ours as well.  My neighbor is on bottled water also at this point as of last Saturday.  My well is a deep artesian and I have a filtration system so it may be a moot issue but I’m not sure.  I’ve decided to take a step back, listen to the experts and follow their advice at this point.  I’m confident that they will do what’s in our best interest when they determine the cause, effect and ramifications of this issue.”

Want to write to Washington?  Here is the EPA information:  Gina McCarthy, Administrator, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 1200 Pennsylvania Ave., NW, Washington, DC 20460.

For more information from the site DES, related to the investigation, visit the NHDES website at