PFAS

Merrimack’s Laurene Allen asks the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services to lower its recommended maximum contaminant levels for PFAS chemicals during a public hearing.

MERRIMACK — A joint research project will be studying six locations throughout the country and their exposure to water contamination, and Merrimack officials are hoping that their town will be chosen as one of those locations.

“It is a very competitive process,” Laurene Allen of Merrimack Citizens for Clean Water told the town council.

Allen said she remains hopeful that Merrimack will be selected for the multi-site study of the health implications of exposure to PFAS-contaminated drinking water.

The project is in conjunction with the Centers for Disease Control, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, and the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control’s Extramural Research Program Office, with Boston University seeking to research the local community.

“It is a CDC-sponsored grant that Boston University is applying for,” explained Tom Koenig, town council chairman.

Last week, the town council voted to send a letter of support to Boston University’s School of Public Health to help with its application.

“The town believes that Merrimack is an ideal community for the study because of the wide ranges of results for PFAS compounds in drinking water,” states the letter.

The letter goes on to explain that PFAS chemicals have been released into the air and have been transported via groundwater from industrial activities throughout the past 35 years at the former ChemFab Corp., now Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics.

Town officials say they are willing to provide assistance to Boston University and the CDC throughout the study, if accepted, and the town council is supportive of establishing a cooperative agreement with the CDC.

“The town believes that this research project will be instrumental in understanding the health effects associated with PFAS exposure,” says the letter. “The town is committed to the public to remain vigilant regarding the safety of its citizens and make every effort to not only keep abreast of the concerns, but also assist with the scientific process to understand the myriad of complex issues related to this problem.”

Allen told the town council recently that six communities from throughout the nation will be chosen for the project, which seeks to recruit families — 350 children and 1,000 adults — to offer urine and blood samples in an effort to collect health data.

The data from the six locations will then be compiled to determine any correlations and health implications, according to Allen.

“We have a very strong proposal. We have really good support here,” said Allen, adding there are some brilliant scientists from Boston University interested in this project.

Although cancers will not be included in the study, researchers will be looking at other health issues such as cholesterol, immune functioning, neuropsychological issues, Asperger’s Syndrome, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and more.

“I think it is very important,” she said of the study.