Rep. Chris Pappas with Rob Singer

Rep. Chris Pappas, D-NH, learned Tuesday that water remediation at the Pease Air National Guard Base may take many years. Project Manager Rob Singer, left, said those numbers have not even been crunched yet.

PORTSMOUTH — After touring the city’s new treatment plant Tuesday, Congressman Chris Pappas said more advanced systems, like the one he visited, are needed to ensure communities throughout the nation have clean drinking water.

Congressman Pappas joins lawmakers to introduce Veterans Exposed to Toxic PFAS Act

Pappas, D-NH, said there are hundreds of sites across the country in the same position as the Pease Air National Guard Base, where the military used to use firefighting foam, which then seeped into the ground and is now showing up as contaminants.

Water being pulled into the plant at Pease contains per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), estimated to be at 2,500 to 3,000 parts per trillion. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has a standard of 70 parts per trillion for PFAS.

The new water treatment system at Pease brings these PFAS levels to a nondetectable level using granular activated carbon and ion exchange resin. The plant pulls water from six locations near Haven Well.

The water is processed at a rate of 700 gallons a minute, and the plant then redistributes it to two other spots.

“This issue is going to be with us for a long time. We’re not going to be able to fully confront it without installing the systems we have here to ensure that folks in the region can rely on access to safe and clean drinking water,” Pappas said.

Pappas says people, including veterans who served at the base, need access to health information, and said he wants to ban the type of firefighting foam that caused the contamination at all military bases. Pappas said citizens in the region and former military members who have contacted his office have helped to give a voice to those with PFAS-related health concerns, as scientists and policymakers work to understand the dangers of the long-lasting man-made chemicals, which are found in more than firefighting foam.

“We’re lucky to live in a region that has been at the forefront of identifying the threat that exists and pushing for solutions. We wouldn’t see the type of investment we have here without those local voices having stepped forward to tell their stories and demand action,” Pappas said.

Active and retired members of the military who served at the base have been invited to learn more about a potential health study being planned for people who may have been exposed to PFAS during their service. The meeting will be held on the Pease Air National Guard Base at 3 p.m. on Sept. 26. Pappas visited the base on the same day that Gov. Chris Sununu signed SB 193 and SB 257 into law in Hampton. They ban residential flame retardants and further use of PFAS in firefighting foam on the state level.