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PFAS protest is on Sunday

MERRIMACK – Area citizens are set to protest pollution caused by Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics on Sunday.

The demonstration is scheduled from 1-3 p.m. Sunday across from the facility at 701 Daniel Webster Highway.

Recently, the town of Merrimack sent a letter to Saint-Gobain and the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services highlighting data that demonstrates an increased level in PFAS chemicals in the area near the facility. In that letter, town officials made it clear they are seeking to have production discontinued at the facility due to ongoing environmental contamination.

“It’s clear that our town is getting fed up, and they want something done,” state Rep. Wendy Thomas, Merrimack, said.

Testing results of a ground water well near the plant measured 69,500 ppt for PFOA, a dip pan in the facility measured 25,600 ppt, while PFNA was at 1,280,000 ppt.

New Hampshire recently set some of the strictest drinking water standards in the country for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) to protect sensitive populations over a lifetime of exposure. The four PFAS chemicals these standards include are perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS), perfluorononanoic acid (PFNA) and perfluorohexane sulfonic acid (PFHxS), and the Maximum Contaminant Levels (MCLs) and Ambient Groundwater Quality Standards (AGQs) for them are measured in parts pertrillion (ppt) and are as follows:

• PFOA – 12 ppt

• PFOS – 15 ppt

• PFHxS – 18 ppt

• PFNA – 11 ppt

Residents have dealt with PFAS issues for years, and some like Thomas are planning to send a strong message to Saint-Gobain that enough is enough. Merrimack is now stuck with the bill for filtering the contaminants out of its public water supply, spending millions in the process.

Saint-Gobain did install a carbon pretreatment system to remove the compounds from their wastewater, but despite that treatment system, the town suspects that the sewer line between Saint-Gobain and the Merrimack Treatment Facility is contaminated.

About two weeks ago, Saint-Gobain notificed more than 130 area families with private wells who are also dealing with contaminated water that they will be placed on bottled water, at Saint-Gobain’s expense, either indefinitely or until hookup to public water can be done. Thomas was one of those residents who received a letter, and she said that this seemed like the perfect time to do something about the contamination situation, to send a strong message to Saint-Gobain.

“I think that people have finally just said enough is enough,” Thomas said.

The protest is being organized by Thomas, and protestors are anticipated to be wielding signs and wearing medical face masks in order to send a clear message that they are tired of the constant contamination and potential impacts on health.

Thomas said this protest came as a result of her seeing a similar demonstration in Bow at the Merrimack Station, a coal-fired power plant, where dozens of people were arrested. In addition, she said the Merrimack protest also comes as a result of the recent climate strike, and the town council’s recent letter that was sent out. She expects more than 100 people to line Daniel Webster Highway during Sunday’s protest.

“Here’s the thing, in that U.S. corporations certainly have a right to get a profit, to make a profit on what they produce,” Thomas said. “This is what capitalism is all about, and we understand that, but they don’t have a right to harm our health and our environment while they’re making a profit. Their corporation has rights, but what about the rights of the 28,000 residents living in Merrimack that are affected by this contamination?”

Adam Urquhart may be contacted at 594-1206 or aurquhart@nashuatelegraph.com.