Though N.H. has a suitable supply of quality water for drinking, there are significant potable water challenges that Southern N.H. residents face. Water is indeed a big issue here in the “Granite State” and certain areas in Southern NH are struggling in terms of water supply, water pressure and water quality contamination.
Some towns – including neighboring Merrimack – have closed down certain public drinking water sources due to contaminations found in their public water supply. In Merrimack, Perfluoroalkanoyl fluorides (known as PFAFs or PFAs) were discovered in their water sources with levels of more than 800 ppt (parts per trillion) – which is a dangerous level for people, pets, and animals in the area.
The chemical bond of PFAF substances take decades to break down and are now being found at high levels in a few rivers, lakes, streams, aquifers, municipal waters and private wells all over NH and in other areas of the U.S.
Today the NH water supply is also being further set up to supply more water throughout our region to areas that need it. For example, the Southern NH Regional Water Interconnection project that is spreading across Derry is under way to help overcome water shortages in neighboring town areas. However, there is evidence of challenges that are raising concerns about the quality of water in our region and groups of experts in NH have been providing information to support public awareness about these concerns.
The Southern N.H. Water Forum – was hosted by the Greater Salem Chamber of Commerce at the Brookstone Park event center in Derry on November 14th to consider the status of NH water resources. The forum included overviews from experts including Mindi Messmer, who is a professional geologist and a former NH State Rep – from the Rye, NH area – who is also a co-founder of New Hampshire Water Alliance.
Messmer advocates for stronger state and regional policy to protect the environment, drinking water and the public health. Messmer noted recent studies have uncovered cluster regions in NH, where children are being diagnosed with unusually high pediatric cancer disease. There are also now reports that indicate that NH has the highest pediatric cancer rate in the country.
She pointed out that abnormally high rates of cancer in NH – including bladder, breast and esophageal – may potentially be linked to contaminated water. Messmer said as a state legislator, she promoted legislative bills that would gather and segment public health data to help better identify health challenges that are appearing in local environments.
When it comes to industrially produced groups of compounds such as PFAFs Messmer noted it’s a national issue. She also pointed out that many people do not realize that common products such as Teflon pans and Scotch-Guard are sources for those compounds that can adversely affect people. PFAFs are also found in food packaging materials, in landfills, even in the foam used by firefighters for fighting fuel-based fires, she said. Health impacts can include elevated cholesterol levels, thyroid issues, and links to certain cancers.
Messmer heralded the state legislature’s efforts to pass SB 309 last year. That bill represents a mechanism of protection for water quality in the state with an emphasis on updated standards and protections for NH residents – especially prenatal and for early childhood ages. This was a bill, Gov. Chris Sununu signed in July 2018.
“Children are significantly more vulnerable to environmental exposures,” Messmer said. “And we know we can prevent environmental exposures, including a focus on water quality.”
Another expert at the forum, Marie Degulis is a certified water specialist and representative of business development for Secondwind Water Systems Inc. Degulis has designed water treatment systems for homeowners and also trains professionals about water challenges in their buildings. “PFAFs and what they do to humans is a “really heavy” topic.” Degulis said at the forum.
The certified water expert overviewed that there is more information still to be discovered and more locations where PFAFs will be found to be a problem. She positioned different examples of how water treatment systems including reverse osmosis filtering can handle problem materials in water, from PFAFs, to arsenic, radon, iron and other minerals.
“It’s all about learning as much as possible, Degulis said, and to find ways to keep water clean and healthy, whether in a large supply source or a smaller home.” She also pointed out that technology has evolved too, making water treatment and filter systems available in many size choices, capacities and prices to properly support anyone needing help.
Jim Ricker, Vice-President/Director of Northern New England Services, and with Wilcox and Barton Inc was also on hand at the forum to provide an overview about NH water supplies. Ricker pointed out that about 50% of state residents get water from private wells including community wells. Ricker said, “NH groundwater sources that provide much of our drinking water are a precious resource.” Ricker further identified potential and acknowledged contamination causes that include closed down chemical manufacturing businesses, underground storage tanks, gas stations, landfills, auto storage yards, illegal dumping and even farms and apple orchards where pesticides and other less than bio-friendly chemicals have been or are still being used.