CITIZEN VOICES® Should NH contribute to water system upgrades for PFAS?

Jul 19, 2019

The New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services recently passed stricter rules for the amount of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) that can be in public water.

The rules are scheduled to go into effect this October.

At that point, some towns with PFAS contamination will need to pay for new water treatment systems – and they want the state to help foot the bill.

About PFAS

PFAS include a range of chemicals used in everything from nonstick cookware to firefighting foam. The chemicals were used for decades, but they don’t break down over time.

That means PFAS builds up in the human body.  Newer studies show a link between PFAS and various health problems, from infertility to liver failure.

About PFAS limits

Right now the federal Environmental Protection Agency has a health advisory for PFAS at 70 parts per trillion (ppt) in public water.

Some states, including New Hampshire’s neighbors Vermont and Massachusetts, have adopted much lower limits.

The limit in Vermont and Massachusetts is 20 ppt for all PFAS combined.

The New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services proposed the following limits for specific PFAS in public water:

  • 12 ppt for perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA)
  • 15 ppt for perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS)
  • 18 ppt for perfluorohexanesulfonic acid (PFHxS)
  • 11 ppt for perfluorononanoic acid (PFNA)

Towns facing a big price tag

These stricter rules will require towns to purchase expensive water treatment systems.

Margaret Byrnes, executive director of the New Hampshire Municipal Association, estimated these costs could run from $70 million to $160 million.  The costs will vary from town to town based on the level of contamination and the state of existing systems.

State government might help pay

The budget recently vetoed by Gov. Chris Sununu included $6 million to help pay for water treatment systems.  It’s not clear if that money will appear in any compromise budget.

However, Clark Freise, Assistant Commissioner for the state Department of Environmental Services, said that legislators and the governor are both interested in pursuing financial assistance for towns in the next state budget. 

Arguments for, against state payment

Supporters of state financial help argue that taxpayers in hard-hit towns should not have to choose between clean water and other town expenses, such as police and schools.

By suing companies responsible for PFAS contamination, the state is already aiming to get money to fight this contamination.

Opponents argue that every town has a list of infrastructure projects, and PFAS treatment systems shouldn’t get any special help.  Towns already have the power to apply to the state for local infrastructure funding.

Meanwhile the state has other pressing budget priorities, from an over-extended mental health system to underfunded schools.

What do you think – should the state help towns foot the bill for PFAS treatment?  Let us know in the comments below.

Should the state pay for towns to upgrade water treatment systems after the state implements stricter standards for PFAS contamination?

Responses to this question may be shared with legislators debating this issue. Only responses from people living in New Hampshire would be included in any report to legislators.

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Have Your Say

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Mark Lord
- Raymond

Mon, 08/05/2019 - 5:57pm

No get the money from the companies that violated the law. Put them out of business if they can’t pay and bring criminal charges for owners and management for failure to stay in federal guidelines. Endanger the public should have consequences, ignorance is not bliss

Terry Melle
- Gilmanton Ironworks

Sat, 07/27/2019 - 7:59am

I’d like the cost to be shared by the out of state people, in whatever way their monies end up in the state treasury - liquor sales, various use taxes. They contribute their refuse into the reclamation system also.

Francis Murzyn
- Merrimack

Fri, 07/26/2019 - 1:44pm

A lion's share of the cost burden should go to the polluters. Who is kidding who....schools will never do without to any extent. The union will simply strike, holding parents and the towns ransom.

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