September 22, 2020 In the News

Delegation urges Air Force to provide water to Newington homeowners

Seacoast Online
By Jeff McMenemy
September 22, 2020

NEWINGTON – Members of the state’s congressional delegation are calling for the Air Force to provide safe drinking water for five Newington homeowners whose wells have tested above the state’s new, more protective PFAS standards.

In a letter signed by U.S. Sens. Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan, along with U.S. Rep. Chris Pappas, they note “there are five properties in the town of Newington … participating in ongoing private water supply well monitoring. Currently, the owners and residents of these properties have wells the state has deemed contaminated and no permanent, alternative source of water,” the federal lawmakers said in a letter sent to John Henderson, the assistant secretary of the Air Force.

They credited the Air Force for agreeing to conduct an evaluation process for the state’s new Maximum Contaminant Levels (MCLs) and Ambient Groundwater Quality Standards (AGQS) for four per- and polyflouroalkyl substances (PFAS).

But they shared their concern “about the timeline for making this evaluation and the potential risks to public health that exist in the meantime,” they said in the letter sent Tuesday.

The estimated the evaluation could take several years.

“Given the emerging science and what we know about the potential harmful impacts of PFAS accumulation in the body, we believe this timeline creates an unacceptable risk to the public,” they stated. “The stakes are too high for the people of Newington, many of whom have unknowingly consumed contaminated water for decades, to have to wait an additional two to three years for an evaluation to be completed and a decision to be made before they can access clean water.”

“We believe action should be taken now to provide a clean, safe source of water for these five properties,” the delegation members said in the letter.

PFAS are man-made chemicals used in products worldwide since the 1950s, including firefighting foam, non-stick cookware and water-repellent fabrics. They also have a range of applications in the aerospace, aviation, automotive and electronics industries, among others.

In addition to being a suspected carcinogen, PFAS can harm childhood development, increase cholesterol levels, hurt the immune system and interfere with the human body’s hormones, according to the Agency For Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.

Members of the delegation sent the letter after the Air Force recently told the N.H. Department of Environmental Services they would not provide bottled water or treatment for the Newington wells unless PFAS levels exceeded the EPA’s health advisory level of 70 parts per trillion. The PFAS levels in the wells are higher than the state standards, but lower than the EPA’s standard.

Gov. Chris Sununu signed the new Maximum Contaminant Levels and Ambient Groundwater Quality Standards into law in July.

The standards are 12 parts per trillion (ppt) for perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), 15 ppt for perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS), 18 ppt for perfluorohexanesulfonic acid (PFHxs) and 11 ppt for perfluorononanoic acid (PFNA).

DES said MCLs are drinking water quality standards public water systems must comply with, and an AGQS is the standard used to require remedial action and the provision of alternative drinking water at a contaminated site.