EPA to conduct first regional PFAS meeting

At the EPA’s two-day National Leadership Summit meeting to address PFAS issues on May 22-23, officials announced the first of five regional follow-up meetings will take place at the Pease industrial port in Portsmouth on June 25-26, the site of a former Air Force base where PFAS were found in water wells in 2014.

“We were the first community to discover contamination, which began a journey over the last four years to push the health department to take action,” said Andrea Amico, an area resident whose husband and children drank contaminated water at the site.

Amico, who started Testing for Pease, a community action group that advocates for a long-term health plan for those impacted by PFAS water contamination in Portsmouth, attended the first day of the EPA leadership summit and met with Scott Pruitt, the EPA administrator, who oversaw the summit and was criticized for the EPA’s unwillingness to release a federal study on PFAS water contamination.

“I met with Scott Pruitt for 15 minutes,” Amico said, “and he had the answers ahead of time. He said the report will come out soon, but didn’t commit a date.”

In a statement released by the EPA, Pruitt said, “There has been much discussion about an unpublished study that focuses on certain PFAS chemicals. The Department of Health and Human Services is preparing this study and has the authority to release it. To be clear, the EPA does not have the authority to release this study.”

At the leadership summit, the EPA announced a four-step action it will take to address PFAS issues. The plan includes establishing a new maximum contaminant level for PFOA and PFOS in drinking water that will replace the current MCL of 70 parts per trillion it set in 2016. It also will develop toxicity levels for GenX, the chemical that has replaced PFOAs in manufacturing operations, and it will develop groundwater cleanup recommendations for PFOA and PFOS at contaminated sites.

At the conclusion of the leadership summit, the EPA announced it will visit five sites around the country to meet with local leaders on the PFAS issue, starting in New Hampshire.

Alexandra Dunn, the New England regional administrator for the EPA, said the agency will co-host the event with the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services.

“It will be open to representatives from all New England states who will help us plan the agenda for PFAS that will regulate action for testing and analytical methods,” she said.

Brandon Kernen, the supervisor of hydrology and conservation at the DES, who made a presentation at the EPA leadership summit, said, “New Hampshire will engage directly with the EPA to identify ways we can collaborate and support each other to address PFAS contamination in drinking water.”

In his presentation at the leadership summit, he outlined an agenda that called for EPA standards and health advisories to be updated and cost-effective options for disposing hazardous wastes developed.

The EPA’s efforts at PFAS action are criticized by many environmental groups. Shaina Kasper, the Vermont state director of the Toxic Action Center, said, “The EPA is trying to hinder efforts to protect the public. They appear to be disinterested in taking action that is not approved by the chemical industry that has been poisoning people for decades. We need to have protective standards because chemical companies like Saint-Gobain don’t have the health and well-being of our communities at heart. We need to make sure the chemicals they are using now are safe.”

Laurene Allen, who leads the Merrimack Citizens for Clean Water group, said the EPA did not invite her to the leadership summit, noted, “We drank polluted water for years and now we want to know exactly how the EPA plans to clean up the public health catastrophe and we want to be part of the solution.”

Allen said she will attend the EPA regional meeting at Pease.

“We look forward to working with the EPA and the state of New Hampshire to address our needs as an impacted community,” Allen said. “If we can’t regulate the PFAS chemicals we are exposed to that are harmful at relatively low levels we will continue to be poisoned.”