×

Water warriors rally against contamination

PFAS protestors voice concerns over Saint-Gobain

Staff photo by Adam Urquhart Roni McCall sits just across from the Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics entrance protesting with a powerful message written on a sign.

MERRIMACK – “Whenever I refer to Gobain I refuse to use the word Saint, because they’re not,” Roni McCall said during the Merrimack PFAS Pollution Protest across from Saint Gobain Performance Plastics on Saturday.

Merrimack Citizens for Clean Water organized the protest, including Nancy Murphy who has been following the issue since sometime around 2016.

“Our goal as moms and grandmothers is to speak out and say it’s not acceptable,” Murphy said. “We aren’t guinea pigs. We shouldn’t be used to be the data for some health study down the road.”

Being a mother of six, she’s concerned about the harmful effects of these chemicals, especially for the children in town. She said with the ongoing exposure right across the street from where she stood holding a sign, that it’s time for this to stop.

“Clean water is necessary for life,” Murphy said.

Staff photo by Adam Urquhart Gail Shaw stands down the road from Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics in Merrimack on Saturday, protesting PFAS pollution.

She has three biological and three adopted kids, and she said three of them have health issues associated with PFAS exposure.

“I certainly can’t say the PFAS exposure is what caused those illnesses, but I can’t say it didn’t,” Murphy said. “So, I’m taking it on as my job as a mom, grandmother and advocate to educate others and hold those people in power responsible for fixing this community.”

On Monday and Tuesday, the Environmental Protection Agency will host community engagement event on per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances at Exeter High School, 1 Blue Hawk Drivr in Exeter. On Monday, there will be a listening session from 4:30-10 p.m. and on Tuesday, there will be a working session from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

PFAS is a group of man-made chemicals that can be found in everyday products, and PFAS compounds entering the environment are raising concerns about the potential environmental and health risks. However, Merrimack is not the only New England community to detect PFAS in groundwater.

Murphy will be speaking there, as well as co-founder of Merrimack Citizens for Clean Water Laurene Allen, who will be presenting on behalf of the Merrimack area. Murphy said any Merrimack resident can attend, and they’re encouraging that they do, because they can speak for three minutes on record.

A little rain didn’t dampen the spirits of protesters who turned out in front of Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics Saturday.

“We’re letting corporate polluters do what they want, and put money in somebody’s pocket, but at what expense to our health,” Murphy said.

Allen said that aside from her presentation on Monday, Pease International Tradeport, Coakley Landfill, a resident from Westfield, Massachusetts, and a resident from Cape Cod also will be presenting for 12 minutes.

At around noon Saturday, she estimated 30 people had come through to participate in the protest across the street from Saint-Gobain on the side of Daniel Webster Highway in Merrimack.

“I think we’re going to do this again, and I think that we need visibility on this issue,” Allen said. “Visibility shouldn’t be scary. This isn’t fear mongering, this isn’t raising everyone’s taxes … there is a problem here. We need to come together, we need to solve the problem and ask for what we need.”

She said this is not a problem that’s just going to go away, and that until these chemicals are declared hazardous substances, companies such as Saint-Gobain can get away with more.

Staff photo by Adam Urquhart Nancy Murphy stands down the road from Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics in Merrimack on Saturday, protesting PFAS pollution.

“We need laws that protect people and give us rights,” Allen said.

She said right now they don’t have the right as a town to stop the 13 airstacks from spewing unfiltered chemicals day and night.

“When it comes down to the big money stuff and the businesses relationships … town hall has no power, the town manager has no power, residents have no power and every one of our reps for two years obstructed every bill that would have protected Merrimack. We lost a whole year,” Allen said.

However, she and others are looking to gain some traction, including Gail Shaw who has lived in Merrimack for more than 30 years, raising two kids in town who are now adults. She has three grandchildren now who were raised part of the time in the community, and said she wants Saint-Gobain to stop spewing chemicals.

“Our town is finally waking up to this,” Shaw said.

Adam Urquhart can be reached at 594-1206 or aurquhart@nashuatelegraph.com.