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175 told EPA head Scott Pruit has taken a personal interest in Seacoast PFAS water contamination

Union Leader Correspondent

June 26. 2018 12:52PM
EPA Region 1 Administrator talks about the importance of input from community members during the first-ever regional summit on chemicals of concern in local drinking water. (KIMBERLEY HAAS/Union Leader Correspondent)

Laurene Allen talks passionately about the adverse health conditions people in her community are suffering from. She believes they are related to PFOA contamination in the water supply. (KIMBERLEY HAAS/Union Leader Correspondent)

EXETER — Officials from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency kicked off a two-day regional summit Monday evening to discuss clean drinking water and contamination from PFAS — per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances.

Region 1 Administrator Alexandra Dunn welcomed about 175 community members to Exeter High School. Dunn said EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt was personally involved in the planning and officials will be reporting back to him as soon as Wednesday.

Pruitt committed to taking four action steps on PFAS during a national summit in Washington, D.C., last month. They include evaluating the need for a maximum contaminant level for PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid) and PFOS (perfluorooctane sulfonate).

EPA officials also intend to propose designating PFOA and PFOS as hazardous substances, develop groundwater cleanup recommendations over the summer, and collaborate with federal and state partners to develop toxicity values for GenX and PFBS.

GenX and PFBS are commonly considered replacement compounds for PFOA and PFOS, which were phased out of common products in the 2000s.

“New England states and New England communities are really out front on this issue,” Dunn said. “It’s incumbent on all of us to find solutions to ensure clean drinking water.”

Prior to opening the microphone to the public, community organizers from New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Vermont spoke about their experiences with contamination.

Laurene Allen of Merrimack talked about the various health problems people in her community are having. She believes they are caused, at least in part, by PFOA contamination from a Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics plant.

Allen said children as young as 12 have tested positive for high cholesterol. There are teens with thyroid issues. People have reported kidney, prostate and testicular cancer.

“Many people with health struggles are concerned about the reasons why,” Allen said. “Their voices need to be heard and not forgotten.”

Alayna Davis of Dover talked about contamination at Pease International Tradeport in Portsmouth. The land, which formerly belonged to the Air Force, is believed to have been contaminated by firefighting foam used there.

In 2014, the city of Portsmouth closed a major supply well at Pease after the Air Force found PFAS in drinking water at levels 12.5 times higher than the provisional health advisory from the EPA.

Davis said almost 2,000 people have been blood-tested for elevated levels of contaminants, but residents and community groups have had to fight every step along the way for awareness and resources.

In May, U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-NH, announced the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry will be conducting a study at Pease to examine the health impacts of PFAS.

Shaheen secured $7 million to fund the first nationwide health study on the impact of perfluorinated chemicals in drinking water.

Jillian Lane of Greenland, who met with Dunn June 4, told the crowd about her concerns related to Coakley Landfill, a Superfund site in her town.

Lane became involved in the issue when a pediatric cancer cluster was reported on the Seacoast two years ago. She said residents are concerned about contamination spreading into groundwater in nearby residences and they should be able to brush their teeth, fill up a pot to make pasta or turn on their sprinklers for children to play in without worry.

“It’s unacceptable,” Lane said of the current situation.

Today, the regional summit will commence at 8 a.m. with a welcome and introduction from Dunn. There will be a presentation on EPA PFAS activity in New England, a state panel, a community panel and a discussion on identifying solutions for PFAS.

Dunn, Peter Grevatt, director of EPA’s Office of Ground Water and Drinking Water, and Sean Dixon, a senior policy advisor for U.S. EPA Region 1 will lead a discussion on the summit’s conversations and summarize key suggestions for participants.

Dunn has said input collected at the regional summit will be included in the EPA’s national management plan.

Environment Health Merrimack Dover Greenland Portsmouth

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