Water Study Raises Concerns at Town Council Meeting

The Londonderry Town Council had a lengthy discussion on its Monday, Oct. 28, meeting regarding the Water Quality Survey that was prepared by Nobis Engineering and received by the town on Oct. 25.

Steve Cotton, the town’s Administrative Support Coordinator said that after three rounds of mailings, the town received 32 approvals for private wells to be tested, and in addition, picked 13 surface water locations around town for testing (along Beaver Brook, Little Cohas Brook, Shields Brook, Watts Brook, Nesenkeag Brook, Cohas Brook, Moose Hill Pond outlet, and Scobie Pond outlet). The town worked in collaboration with the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services (NHDES) and received from the department additional funding for this project.

Cotton said that out of the 32 private wells that were sampled by the Nobis technicians, in 13 the PFOA (Perfluorooctanoic acid) was reported above the new standard of 12 parts per trillion (PPT). The highest number found was in a well on Litchfield Road, 41.

Following Cotton’s presentation of the study, ten residents approached the council to discuss the water contamination problem. Kevin Whitley, of 7 Rolling Ridge, said, “I was glad I opted to get into the testing that they offered, and I’m slightly sick to my stomach to see that I’m number two on the list. I really don’t know what to say, to be honest.” The well on his property had 40 parts per trillion when tested.

He followed by saying, “There is nothing to go back on, you said, am I correct.” Referring to historical data on the testing.

Jeff Marts of DES responded that if he had gone back five years on testing results, none of the compounds would have registered. “The technology then was not very sensitive.”

Whitley also wondered if the testing on his well would be done again. 

The state representative responded that there would be more testing within the test area, but most of the testing would be done in Litchfield, closer to Saint Gobain. 

Council Tom Dolan pointed out that the maps in the study were for both Drinking Water and Surface Water.

The study concluded that overall, low level PFAS (Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) impact was found throughout the town, but higher concentrations are evident within the town in proximity to the Litchfield town boundary. Therefore, some PFAS impacts may be attributable to the Saint Gobain facility operations in Merrimack. 

The study had three recommendations: The town should continue with a periodic (5-year) sampling program to monitor overall water quality and compile a comparable database of water quality; follow up PFAS sampling at those residences with elevated PFOA results may be warranted. A discussion of results and potential for long term health effects should be completed with impacted residents. In some, if not all cases, these tasks may be the responsibility of NHDES or Saint Gobain; and further research/study of arsenic impacts on town bedrock water resources may be warranted. A better understanding of distribution and magnitude of arsenic occurrence could assist to direct prioritization of future water infrastructure planning by the Town.

Resident Ray Breslin asked if there will be any testing on the Superfund sites in the town of Londonderry, and whether PFOA and PFOS’s have been detected in those.

John Farrell responded that testing is currently being done by the Department of Envirormental Serices, and thats an on-going piece, “I don’t know the answer to your question, but I know it’s an on-going piece.”

Marts responded by saying that in most cases the sites are being tested by the state, and the areas are retaining those materials.

Breslin added, “This is a very serious problem and the public needs to realize that the testing of water is extremely important.” He later spoke directly to Jeff Marts, the Project Manager of the Saint Gobain Site Investigation and said, regarding the contaminating materials: “When it’s in your body, it’s not going away. Probably all of us have it in our blood. A little bit, probably not going to kill us. But this is about the young people.”

Marts said that the bottled water has been tested, in blind testing. He said that he is aware of the fact that some people in Londonderry use bottled water, because of the contamination and that they pulled bottles out of home deliveries and checked them to make sure it did not have the same problems: “It is ok. It’s not the stuff from Massachusetts that had a problem”, he said.

There was also a concern voiced that these contaminants were airborne, and able to get into large bodies of water such as the Merrimack and Lake Massabesec.

Marts noted that the studies that have been done show very small amounts are entering water bodies by air.

Paul Ambler, of Tokanel Drive asked two questions, How do we know what the Benefits are of the new testing standards, and what are the long-term solutions for providing the new standards to municipal areas. 

Marts directed Ambler to www.des.nh.gov to find the answers to those questions. He also stated that every material detected, there is a differant test being done.

After the public’s input, the Town Council decided to instruct the town staff to engage with the town’s legal counsel, to find out what the rights of the citizens are, and to what extent the town can work with the law to protect everybody.

The Water Quality Study has been posted on the town website at:  www.londonderrynh.org

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