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City attorney: 'Nobody is drinking unsafe water from the Coakley Landfill'

Union Leader Correspondent

February 05. 2018 9:12PM
Portsmouth City Attorney Robert Sullivan explains that the contracts, laws and science on the topic of Coakley Landfill is difficult for even state politicians to understand. KIMBERLEY HAAS/Union Leader Correspondent 

PORTSMOUTH — City attorney Robert Sullivan told city councilors Monday night that part of the image problem Coakley Landfill has is due to the fact that people can’t understand the full complexity of the closed Superfund site.

Located in North Hampton, the landfill is a source of concern for community members on the Seacoast because they believe perfluorochemicals are being leaked from the site into residential drinking water. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reported last month they tested private drinking wells to the north, northwest, south and southeast of the site and none of the results exceed the EPA Drinking Water Advisory Levels for perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) or perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS).

Sullivan said when the 27-acre landfill was closed in the 1990s, a seven-layer cap was placed on the land to ensure chemicals would not leak into neighboring communities. Sullivan said since then, the EPA has worked with members of the Coakley Landfill Group to ensure the site is safe.

“There is not one single instance when the group did not comply with the EPA,” Sullivan said. “Nobody is drinking unsafe water from the Coakley Landfill.”

Sullivan told the council the Coakley Landfill Group meets via teleconference monthly and keeps careful records of those minutes. They are currently reviewing boxes of written records for those who have requested information under the Right to Know law.

Michael Deyling, senior project manager and hydrologist for Coakley Landfill Group, showed the council diagrams explaining how water flows through the system. Deyling said from a groundwater perspective, the site is pretty contained.

“I think the perception when a contaminant source is there, everyone zones in on the site,” Deyling said of the concern from residents in recent years, which was sparked when the state announced a pediatric cancer cluster on the Seacoast.

Deyling said the landfill has been closely monitored since it was capped. The EPA adds chemicals to the list on a regular basis, he said.

The EPA requested the group test twice for perfluorinated compounds (PFCs) in 2017 and 2018, which will allow officials to better define the extent of any potential impact, Deyling said.

Deyling said a number of products contain PFCs, including firefighting foam, carpet treatments, stain and water resistant clothing, car wax and cosmetics have been found to have the chemicals in them.

Deyling said there are about 90 sites on the Seacoast which could potentially be sources of PFCs, including salvage yards and fire stations.

Environment Health General News Portsmouth

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