Lawmakers push to give state officials power to regulate PFCs


New Hampshire could soon give state environmental officials more power to regulate polluted drinking water.

Lawmakers are pushing to adopt standards for perfluorochemicals. The drinking water of several communities in the state have been contaminated in recent years by PFCs.

Although tests showed the presence of the chemicals, state environmental regulators had to wait for their federal counterparts to take action. A bill moving forward at the State House would give the state Department of Environmental Services the power to regulate PFCs in drinking water.

"Our current regulations basically tell us we have to use the health advisories, if the (Environmental Protection Agency) has published one," DES assistant commissioner Clark Freise said.

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on Tuesday advanced an amended version of a bill that originally required New Hampshire to match its limit for PFC water contamination to the most stringent state standard in place nationwide, a measure that could have prompted DES to make constant changes.

"We're really concerned about the water quality and the emerging problems that we're having, but we don't want to overburden the DES to do things that really don't make sense," said Sen. Kevin Avard, R-Nashua.

A compromise would allow for DES discretion and public input.

"There are a lot of people that have concerns about this," said Rep. Mindi Messmer, D-Rye. "We have pediatric cancer cases on the Seacoast, and we now have levels of brain cancer that are rising to concerning levels in our children as well."

DES could decide to set New Hampshire's standard for PFC contamination lower than the 70 parts per trillion set by the EPA.

"Potentially, there could be some cost to it, but there's also a cost to families that have sick kids," Majority Leader Jeb Bradley said. "In particular, (PFC contamination) attacks youngsters or prenatal babies."

If the bill becomes law, DES could initiate a rule-making process and bring forward a new PFC drinking water standard sometime later this year.

Kimberly Sychterz