Air tests on tap to assess emissions

EPA to take samples from Saint-Gobain site for analysis

MERRIMACK – Air tests on new raw materials Saint-Gobain is using at its Merrimack plant will be tested by the Department of Environmental Services from April 26 through May 2 in an effort to determine whether they are continuing to emit PFOA, as well as other PFAS compounds. The tests also will determine whether a possible control device Saint-Gobain is considering using would curb the emissions of these compounds.

Saint-Gobain declined to name the new raw materials it is using, but Cathy Beahm, DES air permit programs manager said, “They are dispersions that may contain shorter chain PFAS compounds. They may contain PFAS but at a smaller amount than the raw materials Saint-Gobain used in the past.”

The stack emissions from dispersions that contain PFAS compounds, that are used to coat fabric, are being tested by the DES, which will send the samples to the EPA Office of Research and Development for analysis.

“We will do stack testing and look for what PFAS compounds are being emitted,” Beahm said. “We will be at the facility while the stack testing company takes the samples that will be sent to the EPA.”

Jim Martin, a DES spokesman said, “We will wait and see the results about what they are emitting” before determining what the next steps will need to be taken. “We want to see what PFAS compounds may be emitted. We also want to see whether a pilot emission control device, a fiberbed mist collection system, is removing PFAS that come out of the stack.”

Fiberbed mist eliminators capture and remove particulates and reduce emissions.

Martin said Saint-Gobain was ordered to phase out use of high concentration raw materials in its facility by the end of 2006, and substantial reductions have been achieved.

“Emissions have been close to zero, but they are still emitting PFOAs, so we’re doing further testing of the emission control device to identify whether the new generation of chemicals is coming out of the smoke stacks,” he said.

The air tests at Saint-Gobain are being performed as a result of water tests that began in 2016 after Saint-Gobain reported the prevalence of PFOAs in water at its plant.

“We tested 1,500 water samples in what became the largest ground water investigation in the history of New Hampshire,” Martin said.

Dina Pokedoff, a Saint-Gobain spokeswoman, said, “The PFOA in our plants was a component of a raw material of PTFE that we purchased from suppliers. Our suppliers phased out the use of PFOAs after 2015 to comply with regulatory guidelines put out by the EPA and other government bodies. We are committed to using the best available technologies and believe it is principles like these that have helped us remain in business for more than 350 years.”