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State Senate unanimous in passing bill to study PFC limits

State House Bureau

May 19. 2017 12:19AM

CONCORD — State Rep. Mindi Messmer, D-Rye, was in the Senate gallery on Thursday, smiling broadly as the Senate passed a bill calling on state environmental officials to study limits for perfluorinated chemicals in groundwater, with an eye toward tougher standards in New Hampshire.

Messmer ran for office in the fall with the goal of influencing state policy on water-borne toxins, particularly perfluorinated chemicals like PFOA that have contaminated so many New Hampshire wells.

In an unusual display of unanimity, the Senate passed HB 463 as amended on a voice vote.

Senator Dan Feltes, D-Concord, and Sen. Andy Sanborn, R-Bedford, who rarely vote on the same side of any issue, both spoke in support of the measure.

“When the people of New Hampshire turn on the water faucet and put a glass underneath it, they have to know it is going to be safe to drink,” said Sanborn. “I know we all share that view.”

Feltes pointed out that the law is written so that the investigation by the Department of Environmental Services focuses on the impact of PFC contamination on prenatal and early childhood health.

The federal maximum contaminant limit for PFCs is 70 parts per trillion, but other states have adopted much lower standards on their own, such as Vermont, at 20 parts per trillion.

Messmer initially proposed adopting the Vermont standard, but working with Feltes and Sen. Jeb Bradley, R-Wolfeboro, crafted a compromise that was acceptable to DES as well.

“We know there will be some costs associated with it,” said Bradley, who acknowledged Messmer in the gallery, “but there are costs to families with young kids who believe these PFCs have caused cancers in their families.”

The House is expected to concur with the Senate amendment and send the bill to Gov. Chris Sununu for his signature.

PFC pollution has emerged as a widespread threat to water quality in southern New Hampshire in the past two years, with nearly 400 homes in Litchfield, Bedford and Merrimack affected.

High levels of PFCs also caused the closing of the Haven drinking water supply well located at the former Pease Air Force Base.

Election law

The Senate also passed HB 552 on a voice vote, requiring the Secretary of State to investigate all voter verification letters that are returned as undeliverable or if the recipient fails to respond.

The bill also requires the Secretary of State to use interstate comparisons of voter databases to see if voters are registered in more than one state.

Any cases where the Secretary of State concludes a voter may have been ineligible will be turned over to the attorney general for further investigation.

The bill creates an investigator position in the Secretary of State’s Office to handle the new responsibility at a total cost, including benefits, ranging from $69,000 to $74,000 a year.

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