Re: Rulemaking for PFAS under Env-Dw 700-800, Env-Or 603.3, and Env-Wq 402 in response to the enactment of SB-309, chaptered law 0368 (June of 2018).

Chip Mackey and Leanne Atwell

NHDES

29 Hazen Drive

Concord, NH 03301

 

Dear Mr. Mackey and Ms. Atwell:

The NHDES is required to undertake rulemaking to adopt maximum contaminants levels (MCLs) for perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in drinking water that are “protective of human health at all life stages, including but not limited to, prenatal development.” in response to SB-309 that became chaptered law 0368 in June of 2018.

Even though the science is there, the EPA has been slow to act on PFAS contamination. Six states including New Jersey, Vermont, Minnesota, Michigan, Pennsylvania and New York have set stronger standards than the EPA to proactively protect their citizens from these toxins in their drinking water (see Figure 1). New Hampshire can, and must, do the same.

The clear trend over time is for states to enact lower health advisories and drinking water standards (MCLs) for PFAS compounds (see Figure 2).

We have closely inspected the model calculations used by the NHDES to arrive at the proposed MCLs for the four PFAS  compounds. The models and formulas for deriving MCLs reveals numerous places where professional judgment must be used and where assumptions are likely to be made.1 Unfortunately, at nearly every opportunity, NHDES has made assumptions and used expert professional judgement that do not comply with the intent of SB-309 which specifies that the MCLs must be protective of sensitive populations, particularly fetuses, infants, young children, and the chronically exposed. This becomes very clear when the MCLs proposed by the NHDES are compared with the levels proposed by other states (see Figure 1). 

For example, the NHDES toxicologist admitted in a stakeholder meeting that “professional judgment” was used to eliminate a critical aspect of New Jersey’s assessment relating to mammary gland duct developmental impacts to arrive at a standard 3 times higher than New Jersey for PFOA.  In so doing, an uncertainty factor 3 times higher than that used by New Jersey was used in the NHDES calculations. In the summary report, NHDES noted that the mechanism of action is not currently known for PFOA associated disruption of mammary gland development and PFOS associated immunotoxicity. For example, NHDES says “this is a major challenge for scientifically demonstrating causality” (NHDES 2019b), suggested that this is a reason that these endpoints should not be used as the basis for deriving MCLs. Yet, a known mechanism of action was not stated as a requirement for the selection of the critical effect. In fact, NHDES did not present a mechanism of action for the critical effect chosen for PFOS (developmental delays). 

In addition, the ingestion rates used were for an adult pregnant female which results in a higher calculated MCL. The USEPA estimates that infants consume 5 times more water on a per body weight basis than lactating women (0.137 L/kg-day vs 0.026 L/kg-day) (US EPA 2011). Minnesota and Vermont use ingestion rates of 0.175 L/kg-day to protect fetuses and infants. In fact, it is not until ages 6 to 11 years that water intake rates approximate adult rates on a per body weight basis.2 

Half-lives selected by the toxicologist to arrive at the current proposed MCLs were an average for an adult female that sheds PFAs over her lifetime through menstruation and breast-feeding while males do not. Therefore, the half-live for each of the PFAS compounds should be more conservative to protect men and in particular male babies and fetuses.

Specifically, we ask the NHDES to target protection of male babies that have been shown to suffer the most pronounced reproductive maladies including reduced sperm counts and genital malformations.3 We must protect future reproductive capacity and reduce the rates of cancers and chronic disease in our state. We urge you to use scientific peer-reviewed information that other states like New Jersey and Minnesota have used to err on the side of precaution to protect our drinking water in NH. 

Based on our calculations, the Minnesota model,2 which focuses on protecting the very vulnerable stage of early development, the MCLs for PFAS should be no higher than:

PFOA 3 ppt

PFOS 13 ppt

PFHxS 30 ppt

PFNA 1 ppt

Today, the people of New Hampshire say we want the NH Department of Environmental Services to enact strong protections for our water and protect our health over industry interests. 

The people of NH are suffering from the highest rates in the nation of bladder, breast and esophageal cancer and our children are getting cancer more than in any other state. NH also has a double pediatric cancer cluster in a 5-town area of the Seacoast and about 3 times the expected rate of children with brain and central nervous system cancers. Now it is time for our state to stop protecting the financial interests of polluters and start protecting us from the chemicals in our water.  We have paid our price.

A few weeks ago, the citizens of Merrimack, faced with 65 square miles of PFAS contaminated drinking water from Saint Gobain and other industry, voted by an overwhelming margin to filter their water, instead of “blending” or diluting the PFAS, increasing their water rates 31%. The Select Board of Greenland, where families have been poisoned by PFAS coming out of their taps, commented that they want the NHDES to enact stronger standards than proposed.

The industry has known for decades that ingesting these toxins in our water causes cancers and other chronic disease. As a result of the gold standard health study conducted as part of a class action lawsuit against DuPont, we found out that how much the industry, EPA and DOD has known about the health effects associated with these toxins.

There is enough scientific evidence that there is no safe level of these toxins in our water and that even extremely small amounts of PFAS can have major impacts on our health. The science is there. Now, we want the NHDES to protect our drinking water and public health over industry interests. Because surface water and waste water eventually end up contaminating drinking water we make no distinction between the regulatory limits that we are proposing for each of the media.  We respectfully request that NHDES enact the standards for the PFAS compounds above for each of the media being addressed by this rulemaking.

Thank you,

Mindi Messmer, PG, CG

Co-Founder, New Hampshire Safe Water Alliance

1. Cordner A, De La Rosa, Vanessa Y., Schaider LA, Rudel RA, Richter L, Brown P. Guideline levels for PFOA and PFOS in drinking water: The role of scientific uncertainty, risk assessment decisions, and social factors. J Expo Sci Environ Epidemiol. 2019;29(2):157-171. Accessed Apr 12, 2019. doi: 10.1038/s41370-018-0099-9.

2. Goeden HM, Greene CW, Jacobus JA. A transgenerational toxicokinetic model and its use in derivation of minnesota PFOA water guidance. Journal of exposure science & environmental epidemiology. 2019;29(2):183-195. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30631142. doi: 10.1038/s41370-018-0110-5.

3. Di Nisio A, Sabovic I, Valente U, et al. Endocrine disruption of androgenic activity by perfluoroalkyl substances: Clinical and experimental evidence.J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2019;104(4):1259-1271. Accessed Mar 12, 2019. doi: 10.1210/jc.2018-01855.

Mindi Messmer