Amherst water tested for PFOA

AMHERST – An inves­tigation into the contami­nation of local water sup­plies has been expanded to wells in parts of Am­herst, the state Depart­ment of Environmental Services said last week.

"DES is expanding its investigation into per­fluorochemicals (PFCs) in drinking water to Amherst … near the for­mer location of Textiles Coated International," the agency said in a press release. "Eleven water well test results received by NHDES show concen­trations of perfluoroocta­noic acid (PFOA) ranging from non-detect to 620 parts per trillion. Four of the 11 water well test re­sults were over 100 parts per trillion."

The investigation into PFOA contamination of water in Amherst follows similar investigations in Merrimack, Litchfield, Bedford, Londonderry and Manchester. After the presence of PFOA was detected in private wells in those towns, the DES declared a provisional safe exposure limit of 100 parts per trillion, which is the standard used by Maine. The EPA recom­mends avoiding short-term exposure to more than 400 parts per trillion, but hasn’t yet set a life­time safe exposure limit.

While the investigation into the extent of contami­nation is ongoing, Jim O’Mara, Amherst town ad­ministrator, said the town is aware of the issue and is ready and willing to work with the DES to solve the problem.

"We were advised yes­terday by DES," O’Mara said last week. "The town of Amherst is working closely with DES to assist in any way we can.

"DES is taking the lead on the matter. We stand ready to support our resi­dents on private wells."

According to the com­pany website, TCI is "an American manufacturer of high-performance flu­oropolymer films, lami­nates, and composites." The company, which is based in Manchester, used to operate a facility at 105 Route 101A. That facility, which closed in 2006, is the center of the DES’ new 1-mile investi­gation area.

Edward Frechette, TCI engineering man­ager, said his company has stopped using PFOA and that it’s committed to finding a solution.

"Because PFOA has been detected in envi­ronmental tests conduct­ed worldwide, the EPA has been studying the product for years," he said in a press release. "Within the last 10 years, the EPA decided to come up with a plan to phase out the use of PFOA by American companies for fluoropolymer produc­tion. December 31, 2015, was established as the final date for PFOA us­age. As an early adopter of the EPA’s planned phase out, TCI was able to discontinue its use of PFOA in TCI production in 2014.

"TCI is fully commit­ted to health, safety and environmental compli­ance. TCI will work with the N.H. DES to fix the problem."

The DES said in the early stages of the in­vestigation that it would begin by testing wells within a half-mile of the former TCI facility.

"DES will initially be contacting the owners of private water wells located within a half-mile radius of the Am­herst location to make arrangements to collect samples, and will adjust the investigation area as necessary," the DES said.

PFOA, sometimes re­ferred to as "C8," has historically been used in the manufacturing of products such as non­stick cookware, stain-resistant carpeting, mi­crowave popcorn bags, fast-food wrappers and dental floss.

Exposure to the sub­stance has been linked to multiple diseases. According to a court-ordered study known as the "C8 Science Panel," which was conducted af­ter a class-action lawsuit settlement in the Ohio Valley, there is a prob­able link between PFOA exposure and diagnosed high cholesterol, ulcer­ative colitis, thyroid disease, testicular and kidney cancer, and preg­nancy-induced hyper­tension.

For more information, visit des.nh.gov.

Matthew Medsger can be reached at 594-6531 or mmedsger@cabinet.com.