MERRIMACK — As town officials call on Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics to temporarily suspend operations at the local plant, a peaceful protest is being planned to pressure the company about contamination.
Last week, it was disclosed that a test sample from the facility in March found 69,500 parts per trillion of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) at a groundwater monitoring well, which is up from prior testing in November that calculated 3,300 ppt at the same well — an increase of more than 2,000%. The state standard is 12 ppt.
“Our town is finally standing up to Saint-Gobain and saying that our town’s health is very important, and we are not going to let them jeopardize it,” said State Rep. Wendy Thomas, organizer of the upcoming protest.
The protest will take place from 1 to 3 p.m. on Oct. 20 along Daniel Webster Highway, starting in the vicinity of the plant at 701 Daniel Webster Highway.
“I am really encouraged that the town is finally uniting their voices to say ‘comply or stop,’” said Thomas.
Participants will be permitted to stand on the side of the road as long as they do not obstruct traffic or driveways, or stand on private property, Thomas said.
The protest is cosponsored by the Merrimack Citizens for Clean Water.
In a statement, Saint-Gobain said information presented to the town council last week “is not a fair representation of the sampling events at the Merrimack plant, which employs nearly 200 hard working citizens who make a variety of coated fabric products ranging from body armor for the U.S. military to the roofs of iconic American landmarks.”
Lia LoBello, senior communications manager with Saint-Gobain, said the data was cherry-picked from the highest concentration of results and ignores the majority of data collected.
“When the full data set is reviewed, it is clear that the PFAS detected on the building’s roof are not leading to increased (per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances) concentrations in the Merrimack River,” LoBello said in a statement. “The current air emissions from the plant do not exceed regulations and the plant is currently awaiting permit approval to install a regenerative thermal oxidizer ... these emissions controls will reduce or eliminate PFAS from the roof drains.”
On Monday, letters were distributed to Saint-Gobain and to the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services by the town council, asking that the company suspend operations until it is in compliance.
The council wrote to Tom Kinisky, president and CEO of Saint-Gobain: “At the onset of this issue, the council was buoyed by your willingness to self-disclose the problem, as well as your initial voluntary remediation measures ... Three years later, the data reveals that the contaminating compounds are still being used and that test results are getting worse.”