By Chris Paul
U.S. Congressman Chris Pappas met with town Officials last week in to discuss his efforts in Washington to stop PFAS contamination and to help ensure New Hampshire communities have the resources they need to clean up any of their contaminated water.
The meeting took place on Tuesday, Aug. 9, and was considered a clean water roundtable with local officials.
Also attending the meeting was Robert Scott, a commissioner with the N.H. Department of Environmental Services, Londonderry Town Manager, Mike Malaguti, and Town Councilors John Farrell and Deb Paul.
Pappas started by saying he wanted to work collaboratively with the town to try and find a solution to the problem of PFAS contaminants in the ground water.
Adding that the problem is significant here in New Hampshire and all across the country saying he has been looking to get a major package through Congress that would help “turn off the spicket” and stop additional contaminants from getting into the ground.
He also mentioned that there is $10 Billion dedicated nationally through infrastructure legislation that is earmarked to address PFAS and was interested in hearing from local governments on what steps are being taken.
Malaguti responded that the town has been working on the problem for about eight years now and the town formed a PFAS Task Force recently to help find out how severe the problem is and to help disseminate information to the public.
He added that with the grant money coming on line soon, they are trying to plan for what the solution is; saying, “The frustration at the local level that we hear is that, ‘We have this really urgent problem, we need to go now”, but the wheels of government don’t always work that quickly.”
Many of Londonderry PFAS issues have been created by the Merrimack based Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics company and a Consent Decree agreement was recently established to help those effected by the problem they created.
That area in Londonderry includes homes west of High Range Road.
Farrell, who lives in the Consent Decree area of Londonderry, added he thinks a solution to the problem needs to move a lot faster, also saying that the cost to deliver public water to the entire town will cost about $2 million.
That effort would take about 10-years to accomplish.
Commissioner Scott told the group that there is a 64-square-mile area within the Consent Decree area. The short-term solution for problems with people in the Consent Decree, is point-of-entry upgrades such as a public water hook-up where available and private water filtering systems. There is currently a rebate program being offered of up to $5,000 for private wells and $10,000 for a public water line hook-up, for those outside the Consent Decree area.
He also mentioned the long-term solution would be a town-wide public water hook-up.
Scott also said although there is money out there to help with the cost off a public water hook-up, local taxpayers will also have to put money toward the problem.
Scott also said there is a large amount of money available to towns, but they need a plan to get to it.
To that, Farrell said, the grant money needs to come before they can “sell it to the community.”
Scott responded, “Part of the sell to the community is that this money will be available for the next five years.” Adding that prices are going up and there is a recession looming. The program he was referring to has a 49-percent forgiveness.
Malaguti noted that even if we can’t build a $200 million water system in town, but we want to make sure it’s sized correctly to support future development.
Malaguti also said the town is currently accessing whether they should be in control of the water being supplied to residents or if it should remain with either Manchester Water Works or Pennichuck. The work on that would take about nine more months.
The group also discussed the problem of bottled water being supplied to residents in the Consent Decree area. Some people are four-weeks out on delivery, but no solution was given.