Unless action is taken soon, New Hampshire taxpayers are going to rue the day they let a legislative rules committee set an absurd drinking water standard.
To quote Bedford Town Manager Rick Sawyer, “You can see how far down the standard has gone — 12 ppt (parts per trillion) is really 12 grains of sand in an Olympic-size swimming pool.”
We would carry the comparison further and suggest that the cost to enforce such a standard is likely to drown in debt the entire population of our state, many times over.
It is unknown how much contamination by a certain family of chemicals (PFOAs) is unsafe. The Environmental Protection Agency suggests 400 ppt as a guideline while research is done. New Hampshire’s Department of Environmental Services had radically adjusted that to 70 ppt.
While it is often commendable to err on the “safe side,” that is not the case when the “safety” is questionable and the price for it is in the millions of dollars.
Indeed, the total cost to achieve this radical standard is also unknown, as is the little matter of how such a cost will be paid and whether the result can ever be achieved.
How did this happen? Apparently influenced by a handful of well-meaning legislators, the Joint Legislative Committee on Administrative Rules plucked the number out of thin air. Without bothering to hear from the public or from towns and cities or businesses, it simply shoved through the rule.
The N.H. Municipal Association isn’t happy. Neither is the Business and Industry Association. Lebanon says it will sue the state and other communities are looking at doing the same.
“There is no funding, currently, for testing or for solutions or implementing water systems or treatment systems,” says Bedford’s town manager.
There is talk of suing chemical companies that manufactured PFOAs. That will take years and will need to be funded (as will local suits against the state).
The sensible thing to do is to reverse the committee’s arbitrary and irresponsible action.
Since it is a Democrat-run committee, perhaps the party that is beating the “compromise” drum over the state budget will work with Gov. Sununu on this one, too.