Merrimack water issue a priority

Joint school board, town council meeting Tuesday

MERRIMACK – The town of Merrimack will host a joint meeting between the school board and the town council Tuesday evening to discuss the current water conditions, the school board’s “vested concern” and the council’s efforts on quality improvements.

In February 2016, the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services found PFOA, a now-banned carbon compound linked to a variety of serious health issues, in the Merrimack groundwater.

Saint-Gobain, a plastics manufacturer, was found to be the source of the contamination, which could go as far back as 2014.

The groundwater contaminated the town water, and about a year ago, blood tests were conducted on about 200 people in Merrimack to test the levels of contamination.

Last month, in a public information meeting, the results of those tests were released.

“The main contaminant found is PFOA, averaging at 3.9 micrograms/liter in MVD. The general U.S. population average is around 2 micrograms/liter,” Dr. Benjamin Chan, a New Hampshire state epidemiologist said at the meeting. Reports found increasing levels with increasing age.

These levels were higher than the national average, but lower than Bennington, Vt., or Hoosick Falls, N.Y., which also had exposure to PFOA as a result of Saint-Gobain related contaminations. Those communities had rates of 10 micrograms/liter and 24 micrograms/liter respectively.

The need for an environmental toxicologist was discussed at the October meeting, and Lisa Morris the director of division of Public Health Services said the department was working on creating the funding for such a hire.

According to NHDES Assistant Commissioner Clark Freise, they are still investigating and testing what he called the “largest contamination area” they had dealt with, spanning “many square miles,” which include the schools.

On Tuesday, Merrimack Village District commissioners, including Ron Miner, executive director, will speak on the updates.

The meeting also will include an update on the Merrimack Safeguard and the “long-term commitment to Merrimack Middle School student resource officer,” according to the event’s preliminary agenda. Law enforcement officials, the safeguard chair and the executive director of the youth council will discuss the updates.

Tuesday’s meeting will be 7 p.m. in the Matthew Thornton Room at Merrimack Town Hall and will open with public comments.

Hannah LaClaire can be reached at 594-1243 or hlaclaire@nashuatelegraph.com.