By Jeff McMenemy
Posted Mar 15, 2019 at 5:46 PMUpdated Mar 15, 2019 at 8:18 PM
PORTSMOUTH -- Democratic presidential candidate Kirsten Gillibrand called for all PFAS chemicals to be banned during a stop in the city Friday morning.
“I think we have to ban the entire class of chemicals because they will be determined ... as carcinogens,” Gillibrand said during an event to talk about water contamination issues.
Gillibrand, a U.S. senator from New York, spoke on a panel that included Portsmouth mothers Andrea Amico and Lindsey Carmichael, whose kids were exposed to PFAS chemicals in contaminated water at Pease International Tradeport, a former Air Force base.
Amico told Gillibrand two of her three kids and her husband were exposed to contaminated water at the tradeport.
“One of my biggest concerns is the lack of leadership from the EPA and that is something I’d really like to see more focus on,” Amico said.
Gillibrand agreed and called for the Environmental Protection Agency to treat PFAS as a class of chemicals and “designate the whole class as carcinogens.”
“If the EPA turns a blind eye and is unwilling to do the right thing, then you’ll have at least two more years when nothing is done. It’s one of the reasons why we must defeat President Trump,” Gillibrand said to the crowd of about 100 people at the city library. “He is a toxic president to America, that is a fact. He does not care.”
Gillibrand pointed to a comment she said Trump made this week about his intention to reduce all Clean Water Act standards.
“It’s unbelievable how ignorant, if not ignorant, how hateful he is,” she said.
Former Democratic state Rep. Mindi Messmer of Rye pointed to two pediatric cancer clusters identified on the Seacoast and that New Hampshire has the highest rates of pediatric, breast and bladder cancers in America.
Gillibrand noted New York has cancer clusters “all across my state” because of its manufacturing tradition.
“It’s something the EPA must take seriously,” she said. “Our responsibility is to protect people, our number one responsibility, but the greed and corruption in Washington, I promise you, the polluters, they have so much power. Money in politics drowns out everyone else’s voice. The biggest challenge we have is not just the pollution, it’s the greed.”
Gillibrand credited New Hampshire’s congressional delegation for responding to the needs of their constituents to address water contamination.
“This president doesn’t represent anybody but himself,” she said. “I don’t think he’s ever listened to a constituent, about what’s happening in their lives, and done the right thing.”
She added PFAS contamination is “an issue that’s crippling communities across the country.”
The contamination, she said, is compounded by an EPA that won’t declare PFAS chemicals as carcinogens and is “unwilling to do the right thing, to stand up to companies that have polluted the groundwater and made millions of dollars.”
After Thursday’s event, Amico credited Gillibrand for having “a lot of energy, and really positive energy.”
“She made a lot of really strong commitments to helping people facing environmental contamination and getting them more help,” said Amico, who also praised Gillibrand for calling for the ban of all PFAS chemicals. “I thought that was a really strong commitment and incredibly necessary. I thought it was incredibly positive she made such a strong stance.”
She also admired Gillibrand’s passion and noted how her voice broke when the senator talked about families in New York whose water has been contaminated, but they can’t afford to move.
“I appreciated her remarks about how horrible it is to be a mother having to worry about your children’s health because of the water they drink,” Amico said. “As a mom there’s so many things you have to worry about, and clean water should not be one of them, not at this time in America.”