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Monday, October 17, 2016

Famed activist Brockovich calls on state to open up Merrimack water testing

By DAMIEN FISHER
Staff Writer

MERRIMACK – Famed environmental activist Erin Brockovich is calling on New Hampshire to open up the testing for all Merrimack residents possibly impacted by the environmental contamination found in drinking water.

“The people of Merrimack were poisoned for years without their knowledge thanks to a negligent company operating in the area,” Brockovich wrote in a letter to Jeffrey Meyers, New Hampshire’s Department of Health and Human Services commissioner. “At the very least the community deserves to know just how much damage has been done.” ...

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MERRIMACK – Famed environmental activist Erin Brockovich is calling on New Hampshire to open up the testing for all Merrimack residents possibly impacted by the environmental contamination found in drinking water.

“The people of Merrimack were poisoned for years without their knowledge thanks to a negligent company operating in the area,” Brockovich wrote in a letter to Jeffrey Meyers, New Hampshire’s Department of Health and Human Services commissioner. “At the very least the community deserves to know just how much damage has been done.”

The contaminants PFOA – or perfluorooctanoic acid – and PFOS – or perfluorooctanesulfonic acid – were found in Merrimack water within the last year, and more was discovered in Merrimack, Litchfield, Bedford, Londonderry, Manchester and Amherst. The state’s contamination investigation centered around Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics in Merrimack and the former site of a Textiles Coated International facility in Amherst. Earlier this year, Merrimack residents filed a class action lawsuit against Saint-Gobain, though it has not been definitively proved that the company is the cause of the contamination.

Brockovich, best known as the subject of a Julia Roberts-led, Oscar-winning movie about her battle with a utility company over a water contamination issue, is a consultant with a New York-based law firm, Weitz & Luxenberg, which is also investigating the contamination.

The state is going to be testing 200 Merrimack residents to learn about the impact of the water contamination. Brockovich wants the testing done for 7,000 residents who may have been harmed by drinking the contaminated water.

Bob Bowcock, a water expert with Weitz & Luxenberg, said Monday that more testing makes sense, as PFOA and PFOS can stay with people for close to a decade once they have been exposed.

“It bioaccumulates and can stay in your body for 9 1/2 years,” Bowcock said.

The contaminants do not degrade in the environment, Bowcock said, meaning they will stay in the water or soil until they are found and removed.

“It will literally stay in the environment forever,” he said.

These contaminants are linked to heart and blood disorders, and some types of cancers, Bowcock said. Since a miniscule amount can stay in the body for years, even small exposures to PFOA and PFOS can cause problems, he said.

Damien Fisher can be reached at 594-6531 or dfisher@nashuatelegraph.com.