MERRIMACK — As Merrimack and other communities in southern New Hampshire continue to deal with water contamination, new laboratory tests unveiled Wednesday show drinking water contamination throughout the country is more of a widespread problem than originally thought.
Mayor Robert Allen of Hoosick Falls, N.Y., where water contamination was first detected in 2014, described the new findings as “devastating.”
“EPA continues to do so little to nothing on the regulatory front. It is an absolute travesty,” Allen said during a media call on Wednesday.
The new tests, commissioned by the Environmental Working Group, show for the first time that per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances are present in the drinking water of 43 metropolitan areas, including Philadelphia, Miami, New Orleans and the northern New Jersey suburbs of New York City.
Rockingham County was the only area in New Hampshire included in the newest report, which tested at 17.1 ppt in the sample taken by EWG.
If regulations are not in place on a national level, these communities will be powerless to get the results they need, according to Allen.
While many municipalities are just now learning that their water is contaminated, so much of the problem was avoidable, he maintained.
Actor Mark Ruffalo, producer of the film “Dark Waters,” which is based on the real-life story of attorney Rob Bilott who uncovered DuPont’s involvement in PFAS contamination, spoke out about the new findings.
“It has never been a clearer time to regulate PFAS chemicals than it is now,” said Ruffalo, stressing the need to end industrial releases of the toxins into the air and water. The nation must stop the use of PFAS in food packaging, cosmetics, firefighting foam and more, he added. “Real people are paying the price … It is an environmental justice outrage,” said Ruffalo, explaining companies that are the sources of the contamination currently have such a tiny burden to pay as a result.
Ken Cook, president of EWG, said the newest report has him shocked.
The EWG tested with lower detection limits and a wider range of PFAS chemicals, explaining some types of PFAS that were detected have never been discovered in drinking water until now.
“We don’t know how long these communities have been drinking PFAS-contaminated water, but we do know that these chemicals have been used and discharged all across the country for years,” Cook said in a statement.
Currently, New Hampshire’s newest standards for PFAS are on hold under a court injunction. The new 12 parts per trillion standard for perfluorooctanoic acid is down from the previously proposed number of 38 ppt, and down even more from the state’s earlier guideline of 70 ppt and the 400 ppt federal suggestion that was utilized at the start of this problem nearly four years ago; the new PFAS standards still on hold also include 15 ppt for PFOS, 18 ppt for PFHxS and 11 ppt for PFNA.
In Merrimack, where PFOA was discovered at faucets at Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics several years ago, filtration is in the process of being installed on some public wells operated by the Merrimack Village District, and new water lines have been installed to some private, contaminated wells. Many homes in the region are still using bottled water, as the contamination zone was previously expanded.