CONCORD — The State Senate gave initial approval Thursday to a new $50 million bond that would make loans to local governments dealing with per- and polyfluoroalkyl contamination of their drinking water supplies.
State spending would support the 30-year bond, with the hope that some or or all of it could be repaid from the proceeds of a lawsuit against the chemicals’ makers.
“We need to get some funding to the communities as soon as possible to address this crisis,” said state Sen. David Watters, D-Durham.
SB 496 was referred to the Senate Finance Committee for review.
“I am pleased how we are able to serve in a bipartisan way and get this done,” Watters said.
The bonds are patterned after ones the Legislature created several years ago in support of local projects to repair ailing sewer systems or to deal with contamination of groundwater from MBTE, a gasoline additive.
The state set up that fund from a settlement New Hampshire and other states reached with Exxon Mobil over environmental damage linked to MTBE.
Sen. Chuck Morse, R-Salem, had authored the law creating the MTBE-linked trust fund and urged stewards of this bond to approve these grants judiciously.
“One of the challenges is today we can find the smallest amount of anything in water,” Morse said.
“As we set up another fund we have heard some that there shouldn’t be any substance in the water.”
State Sen. Tom Sherman, D-Rye, said a majority of the communities in the Portsmouth area have been affected by PFAS contamination on the former Air Force Base at Pease or by contamination from Coakley Landfill, a Superfund site in North Hampton that accepted waste from the Air Force Base when it was in operation.
In Merrimack, where PFOA was discovered at faucets at Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics several years ago, filtration is being installed on some public wells operated by the Merrimack Village District. New water lines have been installed to some private, contaminated wells.
Many homes in the region are still using bottled water, following the expansion of the original contamination zone.
“It is amazing to me to see the evolution of our understanding, not only that there is PFAS in New Hampshire but the human health impacts from it,” Sherman said.
The Senate passed and sent over to the House of Representatives a companion bill (SB 287) that legislate the limits on PFAS contaminants that the Department of Environmental Services adopted last fall.
“Enacting and enforcing limitations marks a step in the right direction toward ensuring the health and safety of all Granite Staters,” Sherman said.
The new 12 parts per trillion standard for perfluorooctanoic acid is more stringent than several previous requirements proposed since the problem came to light four years ago. The new PFAS standards include 15 parts per trillion for PFOS, 18 parts per trillion for PFHxS and 11 parts per trillion for PFNA.
Business groups filed a federal lawsuit against the limits, which are on hold while the case is argued in court.
“We need to keep in mind these contaminants are no fault of these communities,” said Sen. Martha Fuller Clark, D-Portsmouth.