DES hearing Saint-Gobain

Merrimack town officials listen to representatives from the state Department of Environmental Services who updated the community on its investigation into Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics during a public hearing Nov. 5 in Merrimack.

MERRIMACK — Town officials are once again asking Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics to immediately cease the use of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in its operations.

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In October, following a protest outside the Saint-Gobain plant, the company’s CEO said a Community Advisory Committee could be beneficial to bridge the gap between the company and local residents; town officials were then asked to participate in the committee.

Since then, the town council has notified Saint-Gobain that it will participate, but only if the committee intends to discuss several requests focusing on the health of local citizens and the environment.

The town council is asking for Saint-Gobain to agree to 99% removal of PFAS, and a shutdown mechanism for any violations of the state Department of Environmental Services’ air permit.

The council is asking Saint-Gobain to “immediately cease the use of PFOA, PFOS, PFHxS and PFNA (including all forms and their precursors, PFAS) from Merrimack operations until installation of a thermal oxidizer or other air emissions control technology with guaranteed 99 percent removal efficiency,” Tom Koenig, town council chairman, wrote in a letter to Markos Miller of Good Group Decisions, a facilitator being utilized in the advisory committee process.

Other requests include the replacement of the roof and gutter systems at the facility, replacement of the stormwater piping and control system, installation of a scrubber to remove hydrogen fluoride from the air stack emissions at the plant, covering the costs of all ongoing operation and maintenance at two Merrimack Village District public wells, and other requests.

“Whether in local, state or federal processes, or in this Community Advisory (Committee), the town’s priorities are clear — Saint-Gobain must either cease operations or address these priorities,” said Koenig. “... If Saint-Gobain is establishing the Community Advisory (Committee) as the forum for resolving the substantive matters listed above, the town will gladly attend.”

Thomas Kinisky, CEO of Saint-Gobain, said earlier that the formation of a Community Advisory Committee is something the company has been thinking about for quite some time, and he looks forward to creating this forum for open communication as soon as possible.

Kinisky said the committee is an ideal forum to discuss some of the other requests made by local residents.

To date, Saint-Gobain has installed more than 15 miles of water lines connecting more than 500 homes to municipal water since perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) contamination was discovered at faucets inside the plant.

It is installing filtration units for two municipal water wells in Merrimack, and has distributed more than 200,000 gallons of bottled water to area residents.

Some residents maintain that Saint-Gobain has not done enough in the past three years since the contamination was discovered at the plant and in nearby wells.

Kinisky stressed earlier that Saint-Gobain never manufactured PFOA and that its suppliers committed to phasing out PFOA in its manufacturing processes several years ago.

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