Cancer cluster subcommittee to probe Coakley landfill
PORTSMOUTH — To address concerns about residential water contamination near Coakley landfill, a subcommittee of the Governor’s Task Force on the Seacoast Cancer Cluster was formed Wednesday evening.
At the suggestion of Chairman Thomas Sherman, a state representative from Rye, the subcommittee was formed after an update on the status of found contaminants in nonresidential groundwater monitoring samples collected beyond the footprint of the Superfund site.
Last month, officials announced that perfluorooctanic acid and perfluorooctane sulfonate were found in some of the 20 wells tested. Nine wells did not meet the New Hampshire ambient groundwater quality standard of less than 70 parts per trillion.
The evaluations were performed in response to a test showing eight monitoring wells near Coakley’s borders had elevated levels of PFOA and PFOS.
Sherman said he has a number of questions about Coakley landfill, especially because the town of Rye’s Planning Board heard from developers Tuesday night that they want to build a subdivision which may rely on wells in the area.
“I think we need to do a deep dive into Coakley and get a better understanding of what is happening there,” Sherman said.
Jim Murphy of the Environmental Protection Agency said they will continue to monitor contaminants of emerging concern at the site. A five-year review is due Sept. 30, and Murphy said they won’t stop there. “We want to satisfy ourselves, and we want to satisfy members of the community,” Murphy said.
Members of the task force also discussed the work New Hampshire’s Department of Health and Human Services is doing to further investigate the potential causes of the cancer cluster that’s taken the lives of children on the Seacoast. Whitney Hammond, who works in chronic diseases, said they are in the final stages of pulling together a feasibility questionnaire which may reveal correlations between diagnosed children and environmental factors.
Hammond and state epidemiologist Dr. Benjamin Chan emphasized they might not be able to link a specific environmental factor to a rare type of soft-tissue cancer, and pleuropulmonary blastoma (PPB) found in children in Rye, New Castle, Portsmouth, Greenland and North Hampton.
If the feasibility study suggests some causal connection, the state will perform its first-ever case control study to determine if an association does exist between a specific risk factor or chemical and the childhood cancers. The next task force meeting is Oct. 12.