Conservation Gets Update on PFOA, Gravel Pit Contamination

The New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services (DES) has released the tests of well water to residents who may have been affected by chemicals discharged by the Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics factory in Merrimack.

DES expanded drinking well water testing for perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) to some areas of Londonderry after the Saint-Gobain facility was identified as the responsible party for the water contamination in Merrimack. The testing was later expanded to Bedford and to the streets in Londonderry within the 1.5-mile radius around the plant, including Litchfield Road, Acorn Drive, Sunflower Lane and Sandybrook Lane.

While Town Manager Kevin Smith said at the May 24 Conservation Commission meeting that there was “not a lot to report,” Chairman Marge Badois, who lives in the affected area, said she had received her report.

“I tested low,” she said. “I think it was around 8 percent.”

Smith said Building Inspector Richard Canuel provided information to the DES last week. There are seven wells that could be affected within a 1-1/2-mile radius, he said.

Smith said, “I would be surprised if anything came back on the Londonderry side.”

According to Smith, the Pennichuck water company was holding a meeting that same night in Litchfield to discuss providing hookups to public water suppliers. Smith said, “We need to find out if homes in Londonderry are eligible.”

Preliminary results released April 14 showed tests for groundwater at Saint-Gobain showing PFOA concentrations from 280 parts per trillion (ppt) to 5,800 ppt.

The DES has agreed to provide bottled water to residents with wells testing over 100 parts per trillion.

PFOA was used at the Saint-Gobain facility dating back to at least 2001. The chemical is used in manufacturing and can be released to air, water and soil, where it can contaminate groundwater.

The use of PFOA in manufacturing – as in the production of Teflon – can result in releases to air, water and soil. When PFOA is released to the air, it is readily absorbed to particles and settles to the ground, where the chemical can be transported to and contaminate groundwater. It is resistant to degradation.

Those wanting further information may visit the DES website at

In other business at the Conservation Commission meeting:

• Smith gave an update on the contamination at the Brady-Sullivan site on Roundstone Drive.

In January the DES revealed that contaminated soil from the developers’ Mill West complex of luxury loft homes and offices had been dumped into a Londonderry gravel pit, and hazardous waste was discovered in groundwater. Brady-Sullivan removed 646 tons of contaminated soil from the Londonderry property. But more of the tainted soil remains on the site.

The contaminant has been identified as tetrachloroethylene, or PCE, a chemical associated with dry cleaning and used during mill operations in the past century. In January the DES told Brady Sullivan to remove the soil and dig at least one monitoring well. In March the PCE was reported at 32 parts per billion, with a state maximum safety standard of 5 ppb.

Smith said the DES is waiting for test results in order to see how widespread the problem is. Until then, he said, further excavation is prohibited.

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