My Turn: Lawmakers must step up to protect our water

For the Monitor
Published: 3/19/2019 12:18:37 PM

House Bill 494, relating to Coakley Landfill, will come to the House floor this week. The bill, as introduced, is a version that was amended in the Senate last session after passing the House floor, 207-118. Clearly, the House vote indicated a strong position that action is needed here. Please vote against the committee amendment, which removes the imminent hazard declaration, and pass the bill as introduced.

The EPA has not acted to prevent the flow of toxins from this site. This bill would compel the N.H. Department of Environmental Services to act within the power reserved in the consent decree, to force the polluters to stop the flow of toxins down off the Superfund dump that threatens the drinking water of five Seacoast towns.

The toxins are also contaminating surface water bodies with some of the highest levels ever found anywhere of PFNA, one of the perfluorinated chemicals. Children play in the brooks, people fish in these brooks and we know that brooks contribute to drinking water in New Hampshire.

Since last the House voted on this bill, two private water supplies were shut down due to toxins in their water, which include a residence and Breakfast Hill Golf Club in Greenland. The NHDES stated unequivocally that the contamination was the fault of the Coakley Landfill Group and ordered the group to provide bottled water to both and install a permanent water treatment system at both locations due to the detection of 1,4-dioxane above the new drinking water standard. Right now, people are drinking water from their private wells in Greenland and Rye and North Hampton that other states, specifically New Jersey and Vermont, would say they should not.

Three residents of Greenland have serious health issues and the exposure from drinking water cannot be ruled out as a source. In addition, we learned that an adult who lived near the Coakley dump died at the age of 42 from the same rare cancer that our children died from in the pediatric cancer cluster. This is very rare. Hundreds of private wells and municipal water systems that serve three towns are at risk. Property values have already been impacted by this issue.

Please pass the bill as originally introduced to end the decades-long flow of toxins into our neighborhoods and water supplies of the Seacoast.

Here are some more facts:

■We have a double pediatric cancer cluster and about three times the expected rate of brain and CNS cancers in our children in the Seacoast.

■New Hampshire has the highest rates of pediatric, breast, bladder and esophageal cancer in the country.

■A recent study conducted by NIH showed that women exposed to environmental toxins have a 15 percent higher rate of getting breast cancer due to epigenetic changes.

■Experts say that at least 50 percent of cancers can be prevented by lowering exposure to environmental toxins.

■The bill asks NHDES to do so within the powers authorized within the consent decree.

■Two private water sources have already been affected by high levels of 1,4-dioxane and Coakley Landfill Group had to install filters. NHDES said it’s Coakley Landfill Group’s problem.

■Other toxins, perfluorinated chemicals “PFAS,” have also been found on neighboring properties, as reported by USEPA.

It’s time for the DES to act to protect our citizens and our water. Water is life.

(Mindi Messmer, is a former state representative, an environmental scientist and co-founder of New Hampshire Safe Water Alliance.)

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