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PFOA groundwater contamination discovered at Merrimack's Watson Park

Union Leader Correspondent

September 20. 2018 2:56PM
Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics in Merrimack (UNION LEADER FILE PHOTO)

MERRIMACK — A new area of groundwater contamination has been discovered in Merrimack, this time at one of the town’s two parks.

According to the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services, a monitoring well at Watson Park recently detected 88 parts per trillion of perfluorooctanoic acid; the state standard is 70 ppt.

This past spring, a member of the Citizens for Clean Water in Merrimack urged the state agency to conduct groundwater testing at the park at 441 Daniel Webster Highway, which previously housed Harcros Chemicals.

The park is about two miles away from Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics, the company that originally discovered PFOA in its faucets more than two years ago.

As part of the state’s Groundwater Contamination Notification Program, five local property owners who have private wells near Watson Park were notified at the end of August about the newly discovered contamination.

“The New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services is required to notify owners of property with drinking water wells about new potential sources of groundwater contamination located within 500 feet of their property,” states the letter from Suzanne Connelly of DES’ waste management division. “ … Please be advised NHDES has recently obtained information that contamination was detected in a groundwater sample collected from a property near yours in Merrimack.”

The letter stresses that DES does not know if the contamination has impacted the five private wells nearby, asking homeowners not to be alarmed. The correspondence, however, includes a list of nearly 10 laboratories that conduct water tests for polyfluoroalkyl substances if the property owners wish to have their wells tested for possible contamination.

Some of the properties near Watson Park that were notified include homes on Loop Road and Greenwood Road.

The day after the letters were sent, the New Hampshire Congressional Delegation called on the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry to conduct an in-depth evaluation of community exposure to PFAS contamination in Merrimack.

“I don’t think it hurts to keep reinforcing that Merrimack has been here (nearly) three years dealing with this,” Barbara Healey, town councilor, said last week.

Merrimack officials are in the process of scheduling a public meeting with representatives from DES and other entities to update the community on the PFAS situation in town.

Although a tentative date was set for Sept. 26, the meeting has since been postponed to sometime in October to allow for Merrimack’s deputy director of wastewater for the department of public works to gather facts and put together a tutorial on the status of various local water issues.

Healey said the postponement may be ideal since Clark Freise, assistant commissioner of DES, is still waiting on the results from tests that were conducted at the Saint-Gobain plant to determine the success of a pilot system being used to clean the interior of the smokestacks there.

DES was also previously asked to test for possible contamination at a second park in Merrimack — Twin Bridge Park, a 26-acre parcel adjacent to the Longa Landfill that is situated between Saint Gobain and Watson Park.

Environment General News Merrimack

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