Pollution protest planned in MerrimackBy KIMBERLY HOUGHTON
Union Leader Correspondent
June 22. 2018 12:47AM
MERRIMACK — One day after a new report was released highlighting the health effects associated with perfluorooctanoic acid and other chemicals in the water, a pollution protest has now been organized for this weekend in Merrimack.
“We cannot trust that it is safe to consume public drinking water in our town, and our health is at risk,” said Nancy Murphy, a local resident and one of the organizers of the protest. “We need environmental protection action to be taken now.”
The protest will take place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday across from Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics and adjacent to property owned by the John J. Flatley Company that is intended to soon house about 240 apartments.
PFOA contamination was first discovered in faucets at the Saint-Gobain plant about two years ago. Since that time, dozens of homes with private wells have detected water contamination in Merrimack, Litchfield, Bedford, Manchester and Amherst, prompting action from state environmental officials and Saint-Gobain to provide bottled water and install municipal water line extensions.
Some believe that simply isn’t enough and that more must be done to protect the water supply.
“The Merrimack community needs those responsible for putting and continuing to put PFAS in our air and water to be held accountable,” Murphy said in a statement. “More protective environmental regulations must be enacted immediately so our exposure will stop, and new replacement chemicals should not be used until proven safe for human health.”
Murphy said that local residents need to be provided with safe drinking water, adding lives depend on it.
Saturday’s protest, according to Murphy, is open to anyone who wants clean water and clean air. She described it as a public community event coordinated to call attention to the ongoing polyfluoroalkyl substances discovered in the water. Participants are encouraged to bring signs.
According to Murphy, many private wells and the average of all Merrimack Village District public wells exceed the draft study’s maximum risk levels for PFOA.
According to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry report, more than 600 studies have evaluated the toxicity of perfluoroalkyl compounds, with epidemiology studies accounting for more than 400 of the toxicology studies.
“Evidence from epidemiology studies suggest links between perfluoroalkyl exposure and several health outcomes including liver damage, increases in serum lipids, thyroid disease, immune effects, reproductive toxicity and developmental toxicity,” states the report. “The primary health effects observed in laboratory animals are liver, developmental and immune toxicity.”
The report goes on to say that the most vulnerable drinking water systems are those in proximity to sites that are contaminated with perfluoroalkyls.
“Potentially high exposures to perfluoroalkyls can occur in the following population categories: perfluoroalkyl production and manufacturing workers, communities located near fluorochemical facilities and individuals with prolonged use of perfluoroalkyl-containing products,” says the reports. “These populations may have higher exposure to perfluoroalkyl compounds than the general population based on elevated concentrations of these substances measured in air, soil, sediment, surface water, groundwater and vegetation surrounding these facilities.”
In Merrimack, groundwater contamination at a level that is 20 times the state standard has been detected at a parcel next to Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics that is being eyed for the 240 apartments.
The entire John J. Flatley project, once complete, will convert nearly 150 acres of land into 240 apartments, 300,000 square feet of retail space and 120,000 square feet of industrial space adjacent to Saint-Gobain along the Daniel Webster Highway; the future retail space will require its own individual site plans and additional approval from the planning board, however town permits have already been granted for the first portion of the project.