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EPA issues health advisory for long-term PFOA exposure

Union Leader Correspondent

May 19. 2016 4:40PM
The Saint-Gobain's plant in Merrimack produces specialty coated fabrics and films for a range of industrial applications. The company employs 260 people there. (Courtesy)

MERRIMACK -- Federal officials on Thursday issued a lifetime health advisory for the chemical perfluorooctanoic acid, which is being detected in some water sources in southern New Hampshire.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has now identified 70 parts per trillion of PFOA as a new lifetime drinking water health advisory. Previously, the EPA had a 400 ppt PFOA advisory for short-term exposure.

The new advisory level is less than some levels of PFOA detected in the municipal public water supply wells operated by Merrimack Village District and provided to about 25,000 customers in the area.

At least one Village District well was found to have a PFOA level of 90 ppt, though that well is currently off-line. Ron Miner, superintendent of the district, was not immediately available for comment Thursday. Town Manager Eileen Cabanel directed questions to MVD.

Recently, the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services began providing bottled water to about 200 properties throughout Litchfield, Merrimack and Amherst that have private wells detecting PFOA at 100 ppt or more. It will now begin offering bottled water to homeowners with PFOA at 70 ppt in light of the newest recommendations from EPA, according to a release.

The federal advisory level of 70 ppt was derived from a developmental toxicity study in mice, according to the EPA’s advisory released on Thursday.

“This lifetime health advisory is based on the latest health effects information for noncancer and cancer effects for PFOA - the lifetime health advisory is therefore protective of the population at large,” states the advisory.

Tests on monkeys, rats and mice discovered developmental effects, liver toxicity, kidney toxicity, immune effects and cancers such as liver cancer, testicular cancer and pancreatic cancer as a result of long-term PFOA exposure, according to the advisory.

“Water resources contaminated by PFOA have been associated with releases from manufacturing sites, industrial sites, fire/crash training areas and industrial or municipal waste sites where products are disposed of or applied,” it states.

Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics has been identified as the likely source of water contamination in Merrimack and surrounding areas, according to officials with DES. PFOA has also been discovered at the old Merrimack landfill and the former Textiles Coated International plant in Amherst.

To date, 73 private wells within Merrimack, Litchfield and Amherst have detected elevated levels of PFOA above 100 ppt.

“I am pleased that the EPA has answered my repeated requests and released the new health advisory standards for PFOA and (perfluorooctyl sulfonate) levels,” U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte said in a statement on Thursday. “New Hampshire residents deserve to know whether or not their water resources are safe.

“I will continue to monitor the increasing instances of potentially dangerous PFOA and PFOS levels in water resources in several communities across our state and ensure that the EPA is working with local officials and communities to take every action possible for the safety of all Granite State residents,” she said.

Public Safety Merrimack

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