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EPA finishes engagement gatherings

After completing its final PFAS Community Engagement event in Leavenworth, Kansas, on Sept. 5, the EPA plans to prepare its PFAS management plan and release it by the end of the year.

The first community engagement event was in Exeter in June, with follow-ups in Horsham, Pennsylvania, Colorado Springs, Colorado, Fayetteville, North Carolina and an event for tribal representatives in Spokane, Washington.

The EPA said, “The Community Engagement events and the input the agency has received from the docket for public comments have been incredibly informative and will be used, along with perspectives from the National Leadership Summit to develop a PFAS management plan for release later this year.”

At the engagement event in Exeter, more than 40 citizens delivered remarks during the community listening session. They said the long-term impact of PFOA/PFOS remains a challenge and recommended the EPA move quickly on distributing research. They advocated the EPA develop specific Maximum Contaminant Levels for PFAS rather than health advisories and offered personal stories about their individual experiences with PFAS that have caused health and economic impact on their families.

Jim Martin, a spokesman for the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services, which has worked closely with the EPA on monitoring the Merrimack area after Saint-Gobain reported PFAS water contamination in 2016, said, “The event provided an excellent opportunity for the EPA to hear firsthand accounts from community leaders in New England about PFAS in their communities on a personal level and how it has impacted their own families.”

While the EPA says one of its actions will be to evaluate the need for a MCL for PFAS that may change its current level of 70 parts per trillion that is a health advisory, New Hampshire already has established groundwater standards for PFOA and PFOS at the 70 ppt level established by the EPA.

Many environmental groups are calling for lower levels that have already been established by other states, including Vermont.

Laurene Allen, who heads Merrimack Citizens for Clean Water thinks New Hampshire should consider lowering its MCL to 20 ppt like Vermont and said, “EPA’s commitments don’t go far enough.”

She also said that although the EPA said it will release its PFAS management plan before the end of the year, its four-part plan that includes the establishment of a MCL for PFAS “could be dragged out to 2021. It could be years before it is completed.”

She criticizes the EPA for not acting sooner.

“They have the authority to make the regulations now,” Allen said. “They have the science and the data and endless pocketbooks and people in Merrimack agree it’s not acceptable.”

Andrew Wheeler replaced Scott Pruitt as the EPA administrator in July, and is being encouraged to play a role in the establishment of a PFAS management plan.

New Hampshire Sens. Maggie Hassan and Jeanne Shaheen wrote to Wheeler after his appointment advocating EPA action on PFAS.

“It is imperative that the change in leadership at the EPA does not interrupt the agency’s efforts to protect our citizens from further contamination,” they wrote, “efforts that still need to be strengthened, expanded and accelerated.”