By Alex LaCasse
Posted Apr 25, 2019 at 6:22 PMUpdated Apr 25, 2019 at 9:05 PM
EAST KINGSTON -- A septic services company was identified as the likely source of PFAS contamination in several private wells in town, according to the state Department of Environmental Services.
Biological Recycling Company of 79 North Road receives compost and sludge from septic haulers and spreads it over roughly 13 acres of fields on the north end of its property along Sanborn Road. DES believes PFAS chemicals in the sludge have leached into the groundwater of nearby homeowners’ wells. DES spokesman Jim Martin said seven of 10 monitoring wells on the site tested above the state’s ambient groundwater standard for PFAS concentrations.
Wells at homes at 18, 22 and 33 Sanborn Road, as well as 89 North Road, all showed perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) concentrations above the state’s ambient groundwater standard of 70 parts per trillion, which is also the EPA’s health advisory level for safe drinking water. The home at 18 Sanborn Road had the highest PFOA concentration at 170 ppt, followed by 130 at 22 Sanborn Road, 120 at 89 North Road and 83 at 33 Sanborn Road, according to DES.
PFOA and other PFAS chemicals are suspected carcinogens.
Daniel Bodwell, owner of Biological Recycling Company, will be mandated to cover the cost of providing bottled water to homes, Martin said. He said a letter sent by certified mail April 18 to Bodwell informing him he had five days to provide his neighbors water or the state would do so beginning Tuesday. Martin said DES also recommended Bodwell provide water to another Sanborn Road property that was just under the groundwater standard.
″(The state is) sending an initial supply of water for all the residents,” Martin said. “If water is not being supplied by the responsible party then the state will continue and then we look to recover our costs. We’re treating this as an active investigation because we want to make sure the contamination isn’t migrating off the site.”
Attorney Stephan Roberts, representing Bodwell, in an April 23 letter stated Biological Recycling Company would provide water to the three Sanborn Road homes with PFAS concentrations above the ambient groundwater standard on or before April 27, but denied the company’s septage spreading practice was the source of the contamination. In addition to 79 North Road, Bodwell also owns 89 North Road.
“This water is being provided as a courtesy to BRC’s neighbors and is not to be construed as an admission of liability by BRC for the presence of PFAS in the area,” Roberts wrote. “While BRC shares NHDES’s concerns regarding the presence of PFAS in the area, there has been no information to date indicating BRC’s operations or the property as the source of these compounds, and BRC reserves all of its rights and defenses.”
Martin said DES received requests from four other nearby homeowners to test their wells. He recommended all property owners within a 1,000-foot radius of each contaminated well test their wells. He said the long-term solution would likely require Bodwell to install a point-of-entry filtration system in his neighbors’ homes if hooking them up to a public water supply is infeasible.
Martin said BRC’s operation is “one of a kind” in the state because of the nature of its storage and spreading operations. BRC holds a septic facility permit to operate the lagoon and a septage site permit, which allows the property owner to spread the material on portions of the property.
The state Bureau of Solid Waste Management in 1982 permitted Robert Rossi to spread septage on the land of a Richard Smith and Bodwell. The permit also allowed Rossi to construct a septage lagoon on Bodwell’s property. Bob Rossi’s Septic Service operates at 120 Sanborn Road. A company representative said it no longer spreads septage material on Bodwell’s property.
The 1982 BSWM permit allowed Rossi to spread a maximum of 30,000 gallons of septage per acre, per year, but it could not be applied within 100 feet of low-lying areas, wetlands and drainage areas, and it could not be spread within 300 feet of any residential well.
Martin said septage companies are required to certify adherence to such regulations through the DES biosolids program and DES inspectors visit such sites to verify.
Former state Rep. Mindi Messmer, an environmental scientist, said her concern is that biosolid material with high concentrations of PFAS are being repurposed into fertilizer and used in agricultural settings.
“Because the septage is not heated at a really high temperature, PFAS doesn’t break down and it becomes more concentrated when the liquids are removed,” Messmer said.
Martin said DES added PFAS testing to its biosolids program and requested every entity in the state with a groundwater management permit have their wells tested for PFAS. He did not have an update on the progress of the testing program.
“We’ve recognized the connection between wastewater residuals and fertilizer,” Martin said. “We want to know at what levels.”