More Bad News On Drinking Water Testing and a Demand for Reasonability

April 8, 2016

 

by Len Lathrop

The New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services announced updated drinking water well test results for perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) in Merrimack and Litchfield, N.H.

Test Results:  NHDES has received a total of 107 drinking water test results to date.  The water well samples were collected between March 9 and March 20.  The results show levels of PFOA ranging from no detection to 830 parts per trillion.  Of the results received, 26 private wells (three in Merrimack and 23 in Litchfield) show PFOA levels at or above 100 parts per trillion (ppt) ranging from 100 ppt to 830 ppt.  The newest map is pictured here, or you can see an updated map and table of the test results posted on the NHDES website:  http://des.nh.gov/organization/commissioner/pfoa.htm.

Also this week, the NHDES requested that Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics take responsibility for the contamination, including but not limited to drinking water and groundwater contamination; this includes public water system and private drinking wells.  Before the letter was sent on April 1, 2016.

Critical steps were outlined in the letter as follows:

At this time, we formally request that Saint-Gobain commit to the following:

  1. Bottled Water:
  2. Provide bottled water to all properties designated or to be designated by NHDES, for such period as NHDES determines to be necessary.Such delivery shall be by means and methods approved in advance by NHDES.
  3. Until such time as Saint-Gobain has assumed full responsibility for item 1.a., provide reimbursement to the State of New Hampshire for all costs incurred to date and to be incurred associated with delivery of bottled water to designated properties.
  4. Site investigation, including Sampling and Analysis:
  5. Promptly (within 5 days of receipt of this letter) submit a workscope for sampling and analysis of surficial soils at designated locations where NHDES determines that an increased likelihood of exposure of sensitive populations to soil exists (e.g., schools, daycare centers and playgrounds).
  6. Within 30 days of receipt of this letter, submit a workscope for sampling and analysis of soils at agricultural farms and fields to be designated by NHDES.
  7. Retain the services of a qualified environmental consultant and submit a workplan for a full site investigation of the Saint-Gobain facility and impacted off-site locations within 30 days of receipt of this letter for review and approval by NHDES prior to initiation of further work.
  8. Immediately implement the workplan as approved by HHDES and submit the results and findings to NHDES within the timeframe established by the approved workplan.
  9. Provide direct payment for or reimbursement to the State of New Hampshire for all costs associated with the sampling and analysis of wells, water supplies, surface waters, sediments or other media in the designated study area, including the State’s contractor’s costs.
  10. Provide reimbursement to the State of New Hampshire for all costs associated with sampling and analysis of soil, crops or other media in the designated study area, including the State’s contractor’s costs.
  11. Provide reimbursement to the State of New Hampshire for all costs associated with sampling, analysis, modeling and other activities associated with the investigation of air emissions associated with the Facility
  12. Public Water Supply Treatment:
  13. Provide for the design, installation, operation, maintenance and monitoring of all water treatment system(s) necessary to effectively treat and remove PFC contamination from all affected public water systems.This may most effectively be accomplished by Saint-Gobain by working in collaboration with the affected public water system suppliers, to ensure fully operational treatment not later than August 1, 2016, and will include, but may not necessarily be limited to, the following elements:
  • Retain the services of a qualified professional engineer to design the treatment system(s) necessary to effectively treat and remove PFC contamination from all affected public water systems.
  • Upon approval from NHDES and the public water supply owner(s), construct, install and make operational the approved treatment system(s).
  • Provide for the necessary long term operation, maintenance and monitoring of the installed treatment systems.
  1. As an interim measure, provide all necessary funding to the public water suppliers to enable the use of alternative water supplies or installation of temporary water treatment systems while the permanent systems are being designed and installed.This must be accomplished not later than June 1, 2016.
  2. Public Water Supply Extensions and Connections:
  3. Provide the connection of all residences, businesses and other properties to be designated by NHDES to a public water supply determined by NHDES to be capable of delivering drinking water in compliance with all applicable standards and requirements.Such connections shall be installed not later than November 1, 2016, and shall be accomplished according to a work plan and schedule to be delivered by a NH licensed professional engineer and to be submitted not later than May 1, 2016, to NHDES for review and consideration for approval.This may most effectively be accomplished by Saint-Gobain by providing all necessary funding directly to or otherwise working in collaboration with the affected public water system suppliers to ensure timely installation and connection of the designated properties.
  4. Obtain all necessary approvals and permits and pay all costs associated with connecting each designated property to the municipal water supply.
  5. Private Water Supply Treatment:For affected properties that are serviced by private drinking water wells, and are not designated by NHDES for connection to a public water supply, design, install, maintain, and periodically sample individual Point of Entry treatment systems (POEs).
  6. Site Remediation
  7. Develop a corrective action plan to remediate PFC contamination and submit to NHDES for review and approval within the timeframe established by NHDES.
  8. Implement the approved corrective action plan and submit a report to NHDES within the timeframe established by the approved corrective action plan.
  9. Provide reimbursement to the State of New Hampshire for all management, oversight and other costs reasonable associated with the investigation, remediation, community outreach, communications, and other actions necessary to protect public health and the environment.

Governor Maggie Hassan issued the following statement after the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services sent a letter to Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics regarding water contamination near the Saint-Gobain facility in Merrimack:

“Clean water is essential to public health and public safety, a fundamental building block of strong families, vibrant communities and a thriving economy.  Our state agencies continue to work with affected communities and individuals to ensure that all Granite Staters have access to clean drinking water, but we know that there is still much work to do.

“The Department of Environmental Services has taken an appropriate step in requesting that Saint-Gobain address the threats to public health and the environment posed by this contamination, including delivery of bottled water as appropriate, treatment of public and private water systems, site cleanup and restoration of impacted water.  I will continue pushing state agencies and the company to continue working with those impacted in order to ensure access to clean drinking water now and into the future.”

Since the United States Environmental Protection Agency has not yet established a Health Advisory for lifetime exposure to PFOA, NHDES has decided to provide bottled water to locations using a private well for drinking water for human consumption that contains over 100 parts per trillion of PFOA.  NHDES will reassess this situation once the EPA provides more definitive guidance.  None of the Merrimack Village District water wells tested over 100 ppt.

The EPA has not set an enforceable drinking water standard for PFOA under the federal Safe Drinking Water Act.  EPA’s Office of Water has, however, established a Provisional Health Advisory of 0.4 micrograms per liter (μg/L) or 400 parts per trillion for PFOA.  That level is set based upon short-term contact and the EPA is currently developing guidance for long-term exposure levels, which EPA is expected to release in the near future.

For background, the investigation into the potential presence of perfluorochemicals (PFCs) in drinking water in Merrimack and vicinity began several weeks ago when Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics notified NHDES that perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) was detected at 30 parts per trillion in samples taken from four water faucets within their Merrimack facility, which is served by the Merrimack Village District Water System.  PFOA has been detected in the Hoosick Falls, N.Y., water supply and in some private wells in North Bennington, Vt., near other Saint-Gobain facilities.  Because materials containing PFOA have been used at the plant in Merrimack, Saint-Gobain voluntarily tested the water at its Merrimack facility.