LITCHFIELD — An official with the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services stressed Tuesday that federal funds are necessary to help communities remediate PFOA contamination.
“We really do need federal funds,” said Clark Freise, assistant commissioner with DES.
While there is a large pot of money for infrastructure investments, Freise said he is hopeful that something could be set up specifically for municipalities to address water remediation. And although there is some state aid that could potentially be used to assist local communities with the initiative, “we really need a larger pot of money,” he said during a field hearing with Rep. Annie Kuster and Rep. Chris Pappas.
Additional research and development are also important to determine what contamination still exists and how it should be regulated.
Individual states are not equipped to handle that, according to Freise, who said PFAS standards should really be set at the national level.
“Our real frustration is at the national level,” he maintained.
The Joint Legislative Committee on Administrative Rules recently voted to implement new PFAS standards next month in New Hampshire, which includes: 12 parts per trillion for PFOA, 15 ppt for PFOS, 18 ppt for PFHxS and 11 ppt for PFNA.
Kuster said she is supporting several bills that could potentially: designate PFAS as a hazardous substance eligible for hazardous cleanup; require blood testing among military firefighters to identify the presence of PFAS; fund medical services for military members and their families impacted by PFAS; establish a registry to track residency on military bases; ensure that future PFAS chemicals are not approved; and require chemical substance notification.
She is hopeful the legislation will be wrapped into a package of bills and brought to the House floor for consideration in the fall.
“We have to take additional steps to make sure that we have tough standards in place to regulate PFAS,” said Pappas, adding that quick decisions need to be made to protect public health.
Kuster echoed that sentiment, saying an infrastructure bill is in the works to make sure wastewater treatment funding is also available for remediation efforts.
“The costs are staggering, and we don’t want to set municipalities up for failure,” said Margaret Byrnes, executive director of the New Hampshire Municipal Association. With new standards in place, Byrnes said municipalities must address more than just drinking water standards, but also new maintenance costs, upkeep and more.
She said the new standards impact wastewater, surface water, biosolids, sludge, soil and more.
The nearly $200 million estimated price that it would cost communities to comply with the new standards only addresses water — not the other components that will also need to be remedied, said Byrnes.
“We need help with the financial expense,” she said, adding that there needs to be a partnership in the remediation effort corresponding with whatever science supports for the appropriate standards.
She stressed that municipalities and public water system operators are not the polluters, explaining ratepayers and taxpayers also didn’t create the problem even though they will be stuck with the bills to reach compliance.
Even though some potential funds have been explored, she said those possible funding sources aren’t even close to the actual cost.
New Hampshire cities and towns “want to comply, but they really need support,” she said.