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Unfunded mandates

By Staff | Aug 17, 2019

Often, a state or federal agency establishes new requirements for local officials to meet, only to not offer them any help with reaching the new standards. This is an

unfunded mandate.

Unfortunately, it seems New Hampshire officials may have created such a situation with their recent regulations regarding hazardous PFAS material, also known as “forever chemicals.” The amount of PFAS allowed in New Hampshire drinking water will drop from 70 parts per trillion to 12 parts per trillion, effective Oct. 1.

During a Tuesday roundtable discussion in Litchfield, officials expressed concerns with how to meet the new requirements for PFAS, which are formally known as per-and polyfluoroalkyl

substances.

“Taxpayers, residents, ratepayers – they’re not the polluters. They didn’t create the contaminants, and yet what we’re looking at is municipalities and their residents get to become the responsible party because they get stuck with the bill on those costs,” New Hampshire Municipal Association Executive Director Margaret

Byrnes said.

Byrnes said municipalities need help with financial expenses related to cleanup, infrastructure and whatever else comes along.

“Municipalities are looking at a difficult position,” she added. “They already have infrastructure needs and costs, and now they have the cost of compliance with PFAS. They want to comply, but they really need support and partnership both on the state and federal level in order to do this.”

In attendance for the Tuesday discussion were both of New Hampshire’s U.S. House members: Democrats Annie Kuster and Chris Pappas.

“It’s been a long period of time since the federal government did direct grants for water infrastructure,” Pappas said. “Certainly, the low-interest loans are very helpful, but ultimately, I think we need to see additional support to deal with what’s a multi-billion-dollar backlog, even here in New Hampshire.”

Kuster said a notable resource available for smaller towns, meaning any municipality under 30,000 in population, is U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development funding. She said these dollars are frequently used for water pollution control, wastewater treatment and drinking water upgrades.

We hope federal and state officials can help municipalities meet these new mandates. If the entire financial burden of reaching the PFAS standards is placed on local ratepayers, it could mean financial hardship for senior citizens or others living on fixed incomes.

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