The New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services has denied a request by Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics to extend the deadline for its air filtration installation.
“This is a good day for the town of Merrimack. We stood together as collective Davids and pushed back against the mighty Goliath that is Saint-Gobain,” said state Rep. Wendy Thomas of Merrimack. “We are tired of continually being polluted with toxic PFAS chemicals. We are tired of being told to wait, tired of excuses. Our voices have been heard. This is our town and we demand clean water. Enough is enough.”
Saint-Gobain recently requested a one-year extension to install its regenerative thermal oxidizer, which is an air filtration system that was mandated by DES and ordered to be installed by Feb. 11, 2021.
The company cited, in part, that the pandemic has led to material delays in the supply chain that make the deadline unworkable. It also requested the extension because Merrimack officials are appealing the air permit and asking that the state also mandate that a hydrogen fluoride scrubber be installed as part of the air filtration cleanup process.
Lia LoBello, senior communications manager with Saint-Gobain, said Friday that the company is aware that DES denied its variance request for a one-year extension.
“We are currently evaluating our next steps. We are committed to installing the best available control technology and we will continue our dialogue with NHDES,” said LoBello.
Craig Wright, director of the Air Resources Division for DES, states in Thursday’s ruling that although Saint-Gobain has reduced its PFOA emissions since 2006, the reformulations have resulted in the use of replacement PFAS compounds in the raw materials that may be transforming in the process exhaust due to decarboxylation through a process called ‘thermolysis.’
“Under current conditions, where no add-on controls are being utilized, these replacement PFAS compounds could be acting as precursors that are converting back to regulated PFCs in the environment,” states Wright in his decision. “Based on the available information, there are currently PFCs, as well as possible precursor compounds, being emitted from the uncontrolled stacks.”
Hundreds of homes with private, contaminated wells in the region have been connected to municipal water after Saint-Gobain extended water lines in several communities once contamination was discovered at one of its faucets at the Merrimack plant more than four years ago. Various levels of PFOA are still being found in groundwater throughout Merrimack and surrounding towns, with 25 potential contamination release areas under investigation at the Saint-Gobain plant.
Stopping exposure to PFAS is critical to the environment and public health, according to state Rep. Nancy Murphy of Merrimack. The decision to deny the extension is an appropriate and necessary step toward that goal, she said.
“A lack of adequate environmental pollution controls on Saint-Gobain’s production towers resulted in the PFAS contamination of air, soil and groundwater, and ultimately our Merrimack Village District municipal drinking water supply,” said Murphy.
The air emissions will continue until proper pollution controls are put in place, she added.
“I am so pleased the residents of Merrimack and surrounding impacted communities have been heard. Ongoing PFAS impacts to our environment are immense and the exposure of toxic chemicals to our families must end,” Laurene Allen of Merrimack Citizens for Clean Water said on Friday after learning of the ruling.
Saint-Gobain does have the option to appeal Wright’s decision with the New Hampshire Air Resources Council within the next 30 days.