The good, the bad, and the water: Dispatches from the Bedford PFAS citizen commissioner
Everyone has trace amounts of PFAS in their blood due to the ubiquity of the chemicals present in consumer and industrial products. (Getty Images)
My experience as Bedford citizen commissioner on the state PFAS Commission has been eye-opening, and includes advocacy at all levels.
Fear of PFAS chemicals is justified because they cause cancer, disrupt hormones, and take years to dissipate, but this is not an issue we should hide from in Bedford, or anywhere else.
Clean water and air must be the highest priorities for our kids, and we must protect both ourselves and our property from corporate polluters infringing on our rights. No one consented to contaminated water, whether they live inside the consent decree or not.
This means continued efforts to expand municipal water infrastructure for streets with high-frequency contamination, without mandates or negative impact to Bedford taxpayers, so that affected individuals have greater choice in how their mode of well remediation is addressed by the Department of Environmental Services and Saint-Gobain.
People also need access to all the information, so they can make the best choice for themselves and their families.
- PFAS chemicals are called “forever chemicals” because they dissipate at very slow rates in the body and easily pass among water, soil, and plants.
- PFAS chemicals cause cancer over time as they aggregate in our blood. The higher the level, the higher the risk. Most common associated impacts are to breasts, reproductive organs, and kidneys, but PFAS also hinder immune response.
- Everyone has trace amounts of PFAS in their blood due to the ubiquity of the chemicals present in consumer and industrial products.
- PFAS blood tests are available through your primary care provider and covered by insurance.
- Municipal water systems often show some reading of PFAS if sampled, but are below the New Hampshire 12 parts per trillion limit.
- Both Point of Use [POU] and Point of Entry Treatment [POET] filters yield “not detectable” water readings when sampled for PFAS chemicals.
- Even with filtration systems, wells could still leach PFAS to other wells.
- Saint-Gobain is still emitting a potentially harmful variation of PFAS chemicals called GenX.
What we’re doing
State Sen. Denise Ricciardi sponsored a bipartisan bill that just passed the Senate, funding 10 million in PFAS infrastructure grants. This will help contaminated wells outside the consent decree for which Saint-Gobain has not taken responsibility. Rep. Catherine Rombeau co-sponsored.
Another bill funds the study of kidney cancer rates and causes in Merrimack; both Ricciardi and Rombeau are co-sponsors.
Bedford Town Councilor Chris Bandazian now chairs the state PFAS Commission, leading efforts to study and report on health and environmental impacts. Ricciardi was also just appointed to the committee.
The New Hampshire state rebate program pays $5,000 for filter systems and municipal water connections. U.S. Rep. Chris Pappas and U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan are working to bring additional federal infrastructure dollars to New Hampshire, and NHDES is working to expedite Saint-Gobain’s installation of point of entry filtration systems or water hookups for residents receiving bottled water.
Thanks to the efforts of Town Manager Rick Sawyer, the Executive Council just approved a grant of more than $1.3 million for the Town of Bedford to administer $6,500 rebates for filters and water hookups.
We must guarantee every Bedford resident has clean water, but also hold Saint-Gobain and the state accountable so that residents aren’t subsidizing remediation of their own chemical polluter through state and federal funds – taxpayer dollars – cleaning up Saint-Gobain’s mess.
Recommendations for the state
- Define “permanent solution” for water remediation as municipal water lines, except where majority residents don’t want them, which will empower NHDES to hold Saint-Gobain more fiscally responsible for the contamination they caused.
- Consider banning PFAS. Maine has already done this.
- Consider a lower maximum contaminate limit [mcl] to 1 part per trillion, or undetectable.
- Sponsor legislation that requires individual property owners be consulted regarding remediation mode [water line extension or filtrations system] and that choice be recorded with DES.
Recommendations for the town
- The town council should send Saint-Gobain a quote for water main extensions on affected streets with close proximity to current water lines, where the majority of affected residents want municipal water.
- Residents with town-affected wells should be treated with dignity and transparency, and remediated and reimbursed appropriately.
Recommendations for individuals
- Get your well tested. (https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/NHDES-S-03-008)
- If PFAS are detected, schedule a PFAS blood test with your primary care physician.
- Contact me at [email protected]
- Attend Bedford Citizens for Clean Water and PFAS Remediation meetings, resuming April 8 at 6 p.m. in the Richmond Room at the Bedford Public Library.
Extended water lines will increase property values, help the fire department improve public safety, facilitate responsible development and affordable housing, and guarantee affected wells do not leach contaminants.
If residents prefer filtration systems or do not want municipal water due to concerns over fluoride, chlorine, or the cost of monthly water bills, that is their choice, and it should be respected.
Saint-Gobain is a 300-year-old, $70 billion-plus French multinational company. They can afford to take greater financial responsibility for what they caused.
We should work together as joint stakeholders at all levels – state, town, neighborhood, and individual – to guarantee the outcome is neither singular nor dictated by corporate or government interests.
When it comes to clean water, we should control our own future.
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