By Jeff McMenemy
Posted Feb 13, 2019 at 7:16 PMUpdated Feb 14, 2019 at 10:16 AM
GREENLAND -- The Environmental Protection Agency confirmed three recently dug “bedrock boreholes” near the Coakley landfill have tested positive for PFAS and 1,4-dioxane, both of which are suspected carcinogens.
The bedrock boreholes were dug outside of the Superfund cleanup site as part of the deep bedrock investigation to determine how contaminants are moving around and off the landfill site.
Skip Hull, EPA’s remedial project manager for the landfill, said one of the holes was dug in the back yard of a home whose well previously tested above the state standard for 1,4-dioxane. The other two bedrock boreholes are located to the west of the nearby Berry’s Brook and farther away from the landfill.
The EPA describes 1,4-dioxane as a “likely human carcinogen” by “all routes of exposure.”
“Short-term exposure may cause eye, nose and throat irritation; long-term exposure may cause kidney and liver damage,” it states. It is “a synthetic industrial chemical,” and a “flammable liquid and fire hazard” that is “potentially explosive if exposed to light or air,” the EPA fact sheet states.
People living near the landfill have been concerned for years that contaminants leaching from the site will contaminate their drinking water wells, especially since 1,4-dioxane and PFAS have been found at high levels in monitoring wells at the landfill.
In addition to being a suspected carcinogen, the Agency For Toxic Substances and Disease Registry states PFAS exposure can harm childhood development, increase cholesterol levels, hurt the immune system and interfere with the human body’s hormones.
PFAS are man-made chemicals that have been used in products worldwide since the 1950s, including firefighting foam, non-stick cookware and water-repellent fabrics and carpet. They also have a range of applications in the aerospace, aviation, automotive and electronics industries, among others.
A well at the nearby Breakfast Hill Golf Course also recently tested above the state standard for 1,4-dioxane.
Hull on Wednesday declined to characterize the significance of finding other contaminants outside the landfill site.
“We just got this information,” he said.
The landfill in Greenland and North Hampton is a Superfund cleanup site that accepted waste from 1972 to 1982 and then incinerator waste until 1985.
It was capped in 1998.
The Coakley Landfill Group is made up of municipalities and private groups that used the dump, including companies that transported trash there. The city of Portsmouth is responsible for paying 53.6 percent of the CLG remediation costs, because it was the biggest user of the landfill. Together, the municipalities in the group are responsible for more than 60 percent of the costs.
Scientist and former state Rep. Mindi Messmer said the most recent news shows “both chemicals in combination are migrating offsite from the dump and are endangering private wells.”
“It also sounds to me that the Falls Way development may have impacted the migration of the compounds and drawn them farther away from the landfill,” Messmer added.
Falls Way is a residential subdivision of around 100 homes to the west of the landfill.
Messmer called for EPA to mandate that the CLG expand its testing of residential wells from “the Breakfast Hill Golf course to the Greenland well.”
“They all need to be sampled,” she said.
The Greenland well is used by the city of Portsmouth as part of its water supply, and has previously tested positive for PFAS, but below the EPA’s advisory level.