The New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services (DES) announced last week that bottled water delivery has been expanded to approximately 400 properties in Merrimack and Litchfield served by private wells.
The agency held an April 7 information meeting in Litchfield to discuss its ongoing response to the discovery of high levels of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) in wells around the Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics facility in Merrimack.
As of April 7, the DES had tested over 182 of more than 200 wells in its investigation radius.
“Appointments are being scheduled today and wells are being sampled as we speak,” DES Water Division Manager Brandon Kerner said.
“We are testing as fast as the labs can turn tests around,” DES Assistant Commissioner Clark Freise said.
So far, well testing has not expanded into Londonderry.
Town Manager Kevin Smith, who attended the meeting in Litchfield, said the Town is communicating with the DES and that elevated results near the Town line could mean well testing in Londonderry.
“There are still a lot of outstanding well tests that haven’t come back,” he said. “They won’t make any determination until they get those well tests back. However, the results in the south end of (Litchfield) are coming back with larger amounts of PFOA than those near the Londonderry town line.”
Earlier this month, the DES announced its would provide bottled water to residents whose wells tested over 100 parts per trillion (ppt) of PFOA.
Last week, bottled water delivery was expanded to residents within and abutting a one-mile radius of the Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics plant in Merrimack after the DES discovered unusual test results.
“In this kind of plume, we expect to see one area where the test results are really high, and then it tapers off. That’s not what we’re seeing,” Kerner said. “We have seen areas where one neighbor has 30 ppt, and all their neighbors have above 100 ppt. It doesn’t make any sense. The data is just unusual and we are concerned for a number of reasons.”
To be safe, the DES expanded drinking water and is continuing to test wells within the investigation area.
Freise said the DES will follow the data, testing outside its investigation area if further contamination is found.
“If we see further contamination outside of an (investigation radius), we will follow it out,” he said.
Freise said the Department’s goal is to first get anyone within the one-mile radius of the plastics plant on bottled water to ensure their safety, then to “continue to follow the data.”
In an April 1 letter, the DES informed Saint-Gobain the company has been identified as “potentially responsible for the cleanup of the site, restoration of impacted groundwater and drinking water, other actions necessary to protect public health and the environment, and any costs NHDES incurs for addressing the impacts of this contamination.”
Freise said Saint-Gobain is cooperating with the State.
“They are engaging and paying for the bottled water. Everyone is leaning in to figure out what is the best solution,” he said.
Kerner said the DES is working to update its “water treatment options fact sheet” to assist residents who wish to install water treatment systems in their homes.
The DES has also posted information about water testing and blood testing, as well as updated test results and presentations from its information meetings to its website at www.des.nh.gov/organization/commissioner/pfoa.htm.