My Turn: State must lead to protect drinking water

For the Monitor
Published: 6/26/2020 6:00:18 AM

Nothing is more important than being able to give your child a glass of clean, safe drinking water. The quantity of available safe drinking water becomes all the more important when we are faced again with a drought and global pandemic.

The pandemic has significantly impacted the work of the New Hampshire Legislature. Now, the Legislature has developed “omnibus bills” to address and pass priority policy.

One important example is House Bill 1264. I applaud the work of Sens. Tom Sherman, Martha Fuller Clark, David Watters and Jeb Bradley, and Reps. Renny Cushing and David Meuse, in all their work on this important legislation.

The bill, first introduced only to extend the life of the Pediatric Cancer Cluster Commission (very important), has been amended to include some additional very important pieces of legislation, including:

1) Writing the PFAS drinking water maximum contaminant levels (MCLS) for PFOA, PFOS, PFNA and PFHxS into state statute. This would circumvent the 3M and Plymouth Water and Sewer District lawsuit to block these important protections on our drinking water. The science is clear. This legislation will save the state the money it is spending in Superior and Supreme Court defending the science-based approach used by the N.H. Department of Environmental Services to develop the standards. Earlier this year, New Jersey moved to enact similar protections. The science is clear; the New Hampshire Municipal Association supports this legislation.

2) Providing funding necessary to implement No. 1. This money will be paid back to the state when the state is successful, like many others, in the two cases brought against the manufacturers of PFAS by the attorney general.

3) Requiring insurance companies to cover PFAS blood testing. So many of us in New Hampshire want and need this to pass so physicians will order PFAS blood testing when so many of us have been exposed, without our knowledge, to PFAS-contaminated drinking water. New Hampshire citizens should be covered by their insurance companies and have a right to know the levels of PFAS in their body when unknowingly exposed to these dangerous environmental toxins.

After passing on a unanimous vote in the committee and on the Senate floor 23-1, HB 1264 will be addressed by the House on June 30.

New Hampshire has the highest rates of children with cancer in the nation along with the highest rates of bladder, breast, and esophageal cancer in the nation. New Hampshire also makes the top 10 list for many other cancers. We know PFAS exposure causes some cancers. This bill is an essential step in preventing cancer in New Hampshire and getting us off the top 10 list.

With such strong bipartisan support in the Senate, I urge the New Hampshire House to pass this important bill on to the governor for his signature.

(Mindi Messmer is an environmental scientist and former state representative from Rye and a candidate for the Executive Council from District 3).

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