The bill passed with bipartisan support. (Getty Images)
A bill was signed into law Friday creating a statute of limitations of six years for damages caused by exposure to perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl chemicals, also commonly called PFAS. Previously, those impacted by the toxic chemicals had only three years to pursue legal action after they learned of harm from PFAS.
The chemicals are known as forever chemicals because they break down at such a slow rate. The chemicals bioaccumulate in the human system over time, and the toxic class of chemicals has been linked to cancer and other health problems.
The bill’s prime sponsor, Rep. Suzanne Vail, a Nashua Democrat, said the passage of House Bill 236 was a win for New Hampshire residents who have been impacted by PFAS pollution in their drinking water.
“It opens a conversation about who pays,” Vail said.
The intent of the law is to give people more time to prove personal injury related to PFAS. But it can also help, for example, Merrimack Village District Water Works, which is also facing significant costs, Vail said. She said that it can take time for individuals to understand the impact pollutants are having on their health: Cancers can take years to develop.
“There are just untold expenses and hardships caused by this economically. For the people who live nearby there’s very little they can do about it, and so it is my hope that people will feel more empowered, able to speak for themselves, and stand up to this issue,” she said.
Merrimack has been hard hit by PFAS contamination caused by a Saint-Gobain plastic factory. The company first reported elevated PFAS contamination to the state in 2016 and is now facing lawsuits from both the state and town.
Elevated levels of PFAS have been found in the local water supply – an issue that is ongoing. “Everybody’s going without water,” Vail said. Instead, they have to rely on water shipments in plastic containers that the municipality isn’t well equipped to dispose of.
The law will go into effect in September.
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