Saint-Gobain

Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics’ plant on Daniel Webster Highway in Merrimack is at the center of groundwater pollution concerns in the region.

BEDFORD — With new water regulations now in place, additional testing will be conducted on about 250 private wells in Bedford to determine if the water is potentially contaminated.

“It is this whole area of southeastern Bedford now that will be under investigation,” said Town Manager Rick Sawyer.

The testing will search for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS and PFOA), a group of man-made chemicals, and is expected to take place throughout the next three months.

When new water standards went into effect on Sept. 30, Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics, an identified source of contamination in the area, opted to issue bottled water to some residents in Bedford, Merrimack, Litchfield, Manchester and Londonderry that were not previously receiving bottled water when the contamination was first discovered more than three years ago.

“The issue is now expanding,” Sawyer said of the PFOA contamination.

Some of the private wells that will soon be tested are located on residential properties along Liberty Hill Road and Meadowcrest Drive, as well as Sebbins Pond Drive, Sandy Pond Parkway, Smith Road and Veronica Drive, he told the town council recently.

“There is certainly a lot more testing to be done than what is proposed,” said Town Councilor Chris Bandazian.

Bandazian said these 250 well tests will just be the first phase of additional water tests in the region since stricter regulations were implemented nearly three weeks ago.

“I personally feel that the quality of the testing that is going on now is still too variable. Hopefully that improves with time,” he said.

Initially, there were about 100 Bedford residences receiving bottled water because of PFOA contamination in their private wells. Throughout the past three years, public water lines have been extended to those homes.

Now, according to Sawyer, there are 72 new properties receiving bottled water that were not receiving it previously.

Sawyer said additional water testing is also taking place in Merrimack at select private wells in that community.

Last month, town officials in Merrimack requested that the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services (NHDES) require Saint-Gobain to cease operations in light of new data showing that PFOA contamination is still present at the site.

Despite the request, NHDES said it does not believe that it has a basis or legal authority to require the facility to temporarily halt operations.

A test sample from the facility in March found 69,500 parts per trillion (ppt) of 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 new state regulation is 12 ppt. for PFOA.

A protest has been planned for 1 to 3 p.m. on Sunday across from the Saint-Gobain facility at 701 Daniel Webster Highway in Merrimack.

“People are absolutely sick and tired of this company continuing to contaminate our town,” said state Rep. Wendy Thomas, organizer of the protest.

Thomas Kinisky, CEO of Saint-Gobain, said in a letter to the Merrimack town council that Saint-Gobain is part of a company with a 354-year-old history.

“Our longevity comes in part because we recognize the importance of being good stewards and partners to the communities where our people live and work. As we have since first learning about the presence of PFAS in groundwater in some areas near our facility, we are working transparently and cooperatively with the NHDES and other partners in our response,” said Kinisky, stressing that Saint-Gobain has never manufactured PFOA or polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE). Its suppliers previously committed to the phase out of PFOA in their manufacturing processes of PTFE raw materials in connection with the U.S. EPA stewardship program, he added.

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