PFOAs found in local wells
Amherst residents are updated on developments by selectmen
AMHERST – Sampling of 198 wells around the former TCI manufacturing plant in Amherst revealed that 16 of them have concentrations of perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs) that exceed the Environmental Protection Agency’s health advisory level.
That information was shared with the public during a presentation by several state environmental and public health officials during a Board of Selectmen meeting at Town Hall on Sept. 28.
The findings were presented by Lea Anne Atwell, project manager of hazardous waste remediation and brownfields at the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services.
Drinking-water health advisories issued by the EPA for perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS), PFCs released into the environment when some commercial products are made, is 70 parts per trillion.
Textiles Coated International, a manufacturer of fluoropolymer films, laminates and composites, operated its plant on Route 101A in Amherst from 1985-2006 and currently operates in Manchester.
According to Atwell, PFOAs used at the Amherst manufacturing site were discharged through air emissions, traveled in the air, deposited onto ground surfaces, and moved through soil and into ground water.
Wells were sampled within a mile of the facility. Those close to the 70 parts per trillion level will be retested to confirm results and for officials to see if there have been any changes over time, she said.
The DES is also interested in finding out if soils were affected, so tests are being done at seven properties, including several farms, Atwell said.
There will also be a site investigation at the former TCI location to determine if there were any discharges to the ground surface, particularly through a leech field. Soil testing and sampling at existing monitoring wells will be done.
Test results of 30 wells near the Souhegan Landfill showed concentrations of less than 70 ppt, Atwell said.
Last May, the DES announced it was expanding its investigation of perfluorochemicals (PFCs) in drinking water at the former TCI area.
At the time, a DES spokesman said TCI has a manufacturing process similar to Saint-Gobain, the Merrimack plant near several wells contaminated with PFOA.
Eleven wells tested for the TCI investigation showed results of PFOA ranging from non-detect to 620 ppt. Four wells were above 100 ppt.
The DES advised owners of wells above the 100 ppt level not to drink their water and arranged for them to receive bottled water. The DES adjusted its guidance level of 100 ppt to 70 ppt after the EPA advisory level was announced.
DES officials told selectmen and about 50 residents attending the meeting that an interim measure is to arrange for well owners to receive point of use (POU) systems to treat the water in their homes.
Mike Wimsatt, director of the department’s waste management division, said the DES would like everyone receiving bottled water to get a POU system.
Although the DES is confident that the law allows it to compel TCI to install POUs at homes with wells over 70 ppt, it isn’t confident it can make the company do that for well owners with concentrations below that level.
The long-term solution, officials told the audience, is for residents who receive bottled water to be connected to a water system regardless of their well’s concentration level.
State law, Wimsatt said, requires that the responsible party provide safe, alternate drinking water if they affect someone’s well. The department’s expectation is for the responsible party to have a system designed, funded and constructed that provides residents with a water connection, he said.
"You wouldn’t have to write a check in order to get connected to water," Wimsatt said. "It is the case, though, that once you’re connected to water, the expectation would be that you pay a water bill."
TCI is committed to working with Pennichuck Corp. for the design and construction of a water line, he said. A company representative would visit each home to determine the least invasive and most effective way to deliver water to it.
Rick Cricenti, chief of the Emergency Services Bureau at the state Department of Health and Human Services, informed the audience of a blood testing program for eligible residents.
To date, the program has 245 registered participants, including 10 from Amherst, and 142 samples have been collected. There is also going to be an assessment of PFC exposure to residents served by the Merrimack Village District public water system.
Several residents at the meeting complained about having to pay water bills rather than TCI footing the bills. Some residents also questioned why contaminated wells didn’t affect how much the town had assessed their properties during a recent property revaluation.
Dwight Brew, chairman of the Board of Selectmen, said he would ask the assessor if properties with PFOA-contaminated wells would be assessed at a lower value and what options property owners have.
A response from KRT Appraisal on the town’s website reads in part: "We are required to base our assessment on market data. Through analysis, we could not extract any market value reduction that could be solely linked to the PFOA issue."
According to the company, a neighboring town dealing with the same problem hasn’t experienced market loss solely linked to PFOA. There is potential for an impact on market values, according to the company, and it will watch sales to see if a future adjustment is needed.
Property owners have the right to file for abatements after property tax bills, due in December, are mailed.