By Jeff McMenemy
Posted at 7:34 PM Updated at 7:34 PM
GREENLAND -- The Board of Selectmen sent a letter to state officials urging them to set more protective drinking water standards for dangerous PFAS chemicals.
Chairman Chip Hussey recently sent the letter to Harrison Mackey, drinking water quality manager for the Department of Environmental Services.
The selectmen credit DES’s “efforts to improve the state’s drinking water supply with new standards for PFAS chemicals.”
“While the standards being proposed are a good start and an improvement over current standards, the town believes that the proposed limits are not strict enough to ensure the safety of our drinking water,” selectmen state in the letter.
DES is working to establish Maximum Contaminant Levels (MCLs) for four of the literally thousands of PFAS chemicals.
The Environmental Protection Agency in May 2016 set permanent health advisories for PFOS and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) at 70 parts per trillion.
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.
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.
DES proposed lowering the drinking water quality standard of PFOA to 38 ppt, while keeping the PFOS standard at 70 ppt, and keeping the combined PFOS and PFOA level at 70 ppt. It proposed setting the drinking water standard for perfluorohexanesulfonic acid (PFHxS,) which was found at high levels in the city of Portsmouth’s Haven well at Pease International Tradeport, at 85 ppt. It also would establish the level for perfluorononanoic acid (PFNA) at 23 ppt.
Selectmen stated in their letter that they support “even stricter standards to better insure levels are safe for infants and residents of all ages.”
“We also support stricter standards for other PFAS chemicals not included in the amendment and encourage the state to use the new assessment tool developed by the Minnesota Department of Health,” selectmen said. “The tool allows for a quantitative estimate of infant and child exposure through breast milk or formula.”
The tool also suggests the levels for PFOA and PFOS should be lower than the state is recommending, selectmen said.
They acknowledged there is a “financial impact to implementing stricter standards,” but believe “the health of our residents should take first priority.”
Former state Rep. Mindi Messmer, a scientist, said Tuesday she is “happy that the town of Greenland that sits right smack in the toxic flow from Coakley is supportive of this.”
Part of the the Coakley landfill, a Superfund cleanup site, is in Greenland. Selectmen reminded DES in the letter that even though “the town never used the landfill, the contaminants from the landfill continue to pollute our water today.”
Messmer is one of the leaders of the New Hampshire Safe Water Alliance. The group will hold an event Friday at the DES office at Pease to present it with a petition signed by more than 600 people. The petition calls on DES to set MCLs “equal to or lower than proposed and enacted by the New Jersey Drinking Water Quality Institute.”
“The MCLs should be no less protective than 13 parts per trillion for PFNA, 13 ppt for PFOS, 14 ppt for PFOA, and no less protective than 20 ppt for PFNA, PFOA, PFOS, PFHxS, and perfluorobutanesulfonic acid (PFBS), combined,” the petition states. The petition can be viewed at https://bit.ly/2Iod5Bd.
Messmer believes it’s crucial to set more protective MCLs. “As we go along, all the standards in other states are moving in a lower direction,” she said Tuesday.