Opinion: Preventing PFAS in NH

Published: 9/8/2022 6:04:28 AM
Modified: 9/8/2022 6:00:41 AM

Rosemarie Rung is a NH state representative for Merrimack.  

If you’re a Granite Stater, you’ve heard about PFAS, the group of chemicals present in many consumer products and abundant in New Hampshire landfills. From sources like the Coakley Landfill, corporate polluters and others, PFAS have made their way through soil and into groundwater, which serves as drinking water for most residents in New Hampshire.

The state’s Solid Waste Management Plan now in review for public comment specifically cites the threat of PFAS in the solid waste stream. So, why then did Governor Sununu veto HB 1454, legislation that would’ve put critical parameters in place to safeguard the location of new landfills and reduce the risk of PFAS spreading through landfill leachate?

Shockingly, over 90% of the U.S. population has PFAS chemicals present in their blood. The presence of these chemicals is strongly correlated with a decrease in fertility and increased risk for a host of different cancers and other medical conditions.

In my community of Merrimack and several neighboring towns, we suffer the largest PFAS contamination of groundwater in state history. A cancer study released late last year showed that Merrimack has over twice the rate of kidney/renal cancer than expected and we suffer elevated rates of several other cancers, too. Because PFAS don’t break down, they accumulate in nature, making it imperative that we prevent PFAS from spreading wherever we can, especially through landfill leachate that can easily seep into surface water and groundwater.

At present, New Hampshire does not have an adequate rule for the siting of landfills, only requiring them to be set back a mere 200 feet from a permanent water body, regardless of the hydrogeology of the area. HB 1454 would define the setback, not on an arbitrary number of feet, but based on the rate of groundwater flow to ensure that it would be slow enough to prevent harmful contamination of nearby lakes, rivers, and water systems.

In vetoing HB 1454 the governor reverts to his standby “this will increase taxes” cry, but that is baseless. In fact, a Casella Landfill spokesperson claimed in testimony to the House of Representatives that dumping fees would not increase as a result of the HB 1454 requirement. Additionally, there is ample capacity for the siting of landfills in New Hampshire without putting our natural resources, water, and the health of Granite Staters at risk.

By choosing the interests of corporate landfill owners above scientifically proven strategies to place landfills where they have less environmental impacts, the governor is playing Russian roulette with the real potential for catastrophe if PFAS from landfill leachate makes its way into our water bodies.

I’ve seen firsthand the real cost to New Hampshire families when we suffer PFAS contamination — the thousands of dollars spent on filtration systems and bottled water, medical exams and treatment, and the stress and anxiety of knowing that the water coming out of the faucet contains harmful chemicals. Why would we take a chance of creating this reality for other families in New Hampshire? Is a landfill next to a lake more important that the well-being of our citizens?

This Democratic bill had bipartisan support in both the House and Senate, passing with a two-thirds vote in the Senate and by a voice vote in the House, leaving many to wonder why the governor did not agree with the vast majority of the Legislature on this issue.

On September 15, the House of Representatives will meet to attempt to override the governor’s opposition of HB 1454 and we hope to be successful. Get involved and call your state representative to let them know you want them to vote for the health of New Hampshire not for the interests of landfill developers.




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