NH picks PFOA water standard

CONCORD – Following the release and review of an Environmental Protection Agency advisory aimed at protecting U.S. families from a potentially carcinogenic chemical, the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services announced Tuesday that the state would temporarily adopt an official standard for groundwater quality.

"DES … has filed an emergency rule to establish ambient groundwater quality standards for perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS)," the agency said in a press release. "DES has set three groundwater standards: 70 parts per trillion for PFOA, 70 parts per trillion for PFOS and 70 parts per trillion for PFOA and PFOS combined, where the chemicals are found together."

Establishment of a statewide standard, which follows the May 19 issuance of the federal advisory, will give DES the ability to regulate the level of contaminant found in groundwater supplies in the Granite State. Public water suppliers, which fall under the jurisdiction of DES, can now be compelled to abide by the EPA’s established advisory.

"These standards give DES the authority to direct site-remediation activities related to these contaminants, and also require public water systems to comply with these standards if these contaminants are found in their sources of drinking water," DES said.

After the EPA established an advisory limit for PFOA and PFOS, DES announced that it would review the science upon which the advisory was based to determine the best course of action for the state. Following that review, DES said that it is confident the standard established by the EPA is sufficient to protect New Hampshire families from PFOA and PFOS.

"DES has established these ambient groundwater quality standards based on the lifetime health advisories released by the EPA," DES said. "DES carefully reviewed the health advisories and all of the supporting materials used by EPA in establishing the health advisories, and determined that the health advisories are protective of the public health, both for short-term and long-term exposure periods, and are appropriate for adoption as state ambient groundwater quality standards to prevent risks to public health."

The newly established emergency groundwater quality standard goes into effect immediately and is valid for 180 days. In the interim, DES said their staff will be working to adopt the rule on a long-term basis. That agency also said that it would include public input as part of its regular rulemaking process.

Implementation of a new standard follows the discovery and voluntary reporting of low levels of PFOA in the tap water at the Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics plant on Daniel Webster Highway. Subsequent testing has found the contaminant in private wells and public water supplies in at least six southern New Hampshire municipalities.

DES has held public information sessions in several of the affected towns to bring information to concerned residents. A further such meeting has been scheduled in the town of Bedford, where more than a dozen wells measure above the newly established groundwater standard. That meeting, scheduled for 6:30 p.m. June 2, will discuss the ongoing investigation into the presence of PFOA in drinking water supplies and is open to the public.

For more information regarding the investigation, visit www.des.nh.gov.

Matthew Medsger can be reached at 594-6531, mmedsger@nashuatelegraph.com or @Telegraph_MattM.