N.H. to get $27 million EPA loan

MERRIMACK – A $27 million federal loan should help New Hampshire officials in the ongoing battle against cancer-causing per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances, more commonly known as PFAS.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency officials confirmed the $27 million distribution from two funds: the Clean Water State Revolving Fund and the Drinking Water State Revolving Loan Fund.

“Communities across New Hampshire will enjoy cleaner water and make important infrastructure upgrades thanks to this funding,” EPA New England Regional Administrator Alexandra Dunn said.

“These low-cost loans further EPA’s commitment to ensuring American communities have access to clean water, safe drinking water and the infrastructure necessary to support local needs.”

Via the fund, states provide various types of financing to improve drinking water treatment systems and improve the source of water supply. Clean Water SRF programs provide loans to construct municipal wastewater facilities and control nonpoint sources of pollution.

“The EPA funding is not unexpected,” New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services spokesman Jim Martin said. “We get money every year from EPA that is passed through to municipalities for clean water, wastewater and stormwater improvement projects.”

When asked if EPA money has been or will be used for PFAS water contamination projects, Martin said it probably hasn’t been used for them in the past, but could be in the future.

“Municipalities can apply to the state for improvements to their systems and if they have PFAS contamination they can apply to put filtration systems in,” he said.

Martin said funding is secured for two municipalities with PFAS water contamination problems: Merrimack and Portsmouth.

“Portsmouth is getting paid by the Air Force and Merrimack is getting paid by Saint-Gobain, but Merrimack may be looking to do additional things and could need money from loans,” he said.

Portsmouth shut down a well in 2014 after the Air Force found high levels of PFOS in the well.

In Merrimack, Saint-Gobain has paid to connect private well owners to public water when the wells tested above the EPA limit of 70 parts per trillion after Saint-Gobain reported PFAS water contamination near its plant in 2016.

New Hampshire municipalities benefit from the $236 million trust fund from ExxonMobil Corp. that was settled in 2015 for contamination from MtBE, a gasoline additive. The town of Colebrook was the first to get money from the trust fund. The Drinking Water and Ground Water Commission picked nine projects to get trust fund grants.

“The trust fund helps to fill in the funding gaps, but it must be preserved for long term use,” Martin said. “The EPA funding is very important and before the Exxon trust fund, it was the only funding municipalities could count on to improve their drinking and waste water systems.”

Martin said municipalities can apply for low-cost EPA loans.

“The EPA money only goes so far,” he said. “It’s not as much as we need for water system upgrades, which are very expensive, so it’s a competitive application process for these dollars.”

The Clean Water SRF was established by the 1987 amendments to the Clean Water Act, while the Drinking Water SRF was established by the 1996 amendments to the Safe Drinking as financial assistance programs for a wide range of water infrastructure projects.