September 22. 2017 7:09PM

Merrimack officials seek action to curb further water contamination

Union Leader Correspondent

The Saint-Gobain plant in Merrimack, N.H. (File photo)

MERRIMACK — As town officials await the results of blood testing conducted on more than 200 Merrimack Village District water customers, they are urging Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics and the Merrimack legislative delegation for further action to curb water contamination.

Last week, the Merrimack Town Council sent separate letters to Robert Scott, the commissioner for the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services (NHDES), and to Merrimack’s state representatives.

In its letter to Scott, local officials ask DES to recommend that Saint-Gobain conduct an air quality test of GenX, the chemical that replaced DuPont’s C8, the likely cause of water contamination in Merrimack and nearby towns.

“It would be advantageous for Saint-Gobain to positively respond to this request since it would demonstrate good faith on their part to the Merrimack community,” wrote Nancy Harrington, chairman of the Town Council.

Although DES does not have any regulatory requirements for this test, Harrington said the test is crucial to local citizens in assuring them that no additional contaminants are being emitted from the facility.

In a separate letter to state Sen. Gary Daniels, Harrington asks the Merrimack delegation to “look at establishing new legislation/regulations that would allow DES the ability to conduct air quality analysis for unregulated emerging contaminants like C6 and GenX.

“We strongly encourage the legislators look at any and all options to allow DES the ability to test the air emissions of companies,” she added.

C8 was previously phased out and replaced with GenX, also known as C6, a chemical with six perfluorinated carbons and still considered a perfluorinated compound; the shorter-chained grease-proofing agent is found in some food packaging materials.

Earlier this summer, a bill designed to help regulate airborne contaminants ending up in New Hampshire drinking water did not move forward by legislators.

The amended bill, HB 463, would have required the state to consider tougher standards for acceptable limits of perfluorinated chemicals like perfluorooctanoic acid in drinking water, but it died when a House and Senate conference committee could not agree.

Harrington urged the legislation to reach out to town councilors to assist with the passing of new legislation that would help regulate airborne contaminants.

A public informational meeting has been planned for 6:30 p.m. on Oct. 10 at Mastricola Upper Elementary School, and officials from DES will be on hand. According to Harrington, representatives from Merrimack Village District and Saint-Gobain will be invited to the meeting. She is optimistic that a spokesman from the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services will also be in attendance.

“It is critical that HHS be at that meeting,” said Town Councilor Bill Boyd, who is hopeful that the blood test results from more than 200 Merrimack Village District customers will be released at that time.

When the blood testing program was launched, officials said a summary of the community’s results will be shared with participants and with the public. These results will be compared to other tested populations, including the general U.S. population tested from the Centers for Disease Control’s National Health and Examination Nutrition Survey, and to other communities tested in New Hampshire.