GREENLAND — State officials are awaiting other test results conducted on wells near the Coakley landfill that have historically tested above New Hampshire’s new groundwater standard for the suspected carcinogen 1,4-dioxane.
Andrew Hoffman of DES’ Waste Management Division said the state asked the Coakley Landfill Group to test the additional wells after the state lowered its ambient groundwater quality standard for 1,4-dioxane to .32 parts per billion.
The state told the CLG to “conduct more frequent sampling of a couple wells that have historically sampled for 1,4-dioxane above the new standard,” Hoffman said, including the well that serves the clubhouse at the Breakfast Hill Golf Club.
The tests have been conducted, Hoffman said, but the state and CLG are awaiting the results.
Hoffman’s comments Wednesday come a few days after DES ordered the CLG to “immediately provide bottled water” to homeowners on Breakfast Hill Road whose well tested above the new standard. DES also ordered the CLG to provide it with “recommendations for corrective action” within 30 days.
“That would mean they would need to provide a long-term solution to the problem, which could be connecting somebody to a public water supply or providing a treatment system,” DES spokesman Jim Martin said Tuesday afternoon. “Bottled water is not considered a long-term solution.”
The Environmental Protection Agency describes 1,4-dioxane as “a likely human carcinogen.” An EPA fact sheet states it is “found at many federal facilities because of its widespread use as a stabilizer in certain chlorinated solvents, paint strippers, greases and waxes.” The chemical, the EPA also states, “may leach readily from soil to groundwater, migrates rapidly in groundwater and is relatively resistant to biodegradation in the subsurface.”
Melisa St. John, one of the owners of the home that tested above the new level, said the couple found out about the contamination two days ago.
Peter Britz, the city’s environmental planner who also works for the CLG, brought bottled water and fact sheets about the chemicals to their home, she said.
“I wasn’t particularly concerned based on the threshold levels that other states have,” St. John said about the elevated 1,4-dioxane level in their well.
The house is near Berry’s Brook, where tests have found high levels of PFAS chemicals, and across the street from the golf course.
“Based on the information they provided, the threshold has been reduced significantly and it’s much lower than most other states,” she added.
Massachusetts’ has a .3 ppb guideline for 1,4-dioxane.
Prior to hearing about the 1,4-dioxane level, the couple, who has two children, a 1-year-old and a 4-year old, installed a water filter in their basement and refrigerator, she said.
“Admittedly, I don’t know if our dual filter system actually filters for 1,4-dioxane, but I imagine it would probably take some of it out,” St. John said Wednesday at her home.
At the same time, she said, she would “welcome a permanent solution” to the elevated level. “It would be nice if that happens,” she said.
The CLG is made up of municipalities and private groups that used the Superfund cleanup site in Greenland and North Hampton, including companies that transported trash to it. Portsmouth is responsible for 53.6 percent of the CLG remediation costs and together the municipalities are responsible for more than 60 percent.
The landfill accepted waste from 1972 to 1982 and then incinerator waste until 1985. It was capped in 1998.
People living near the landfill have been concerned for several years that contaminants leaching from the dump will contaminate their drinking water wells, especially since 1,4-dioxane and PFAS have been found at high levels in monitoring wells at the landfill.
Greenland Town Administrator Karen Anderson said she heard about the test results by reading an article in the Portsmouth Herald. “We were not given the courtesy of a call,” she said. “It makes me furious.”
Anderson added she is “very discouraged that it is taking so long for us to come to a conclusion on what can be done” about extending Portsmouth’s municipal water line to homes near the landfill.
“The goal of the water line is to be preventative and keep people safe,” she said.
The town of Greenland and city of Portsmouth have asked for money from the state’s MTBE fund to build the water line, but they are awaiting results of an engineering study being conducted.
To this point, the CLG has refused to pay for any of the costs for the water line, she said.
“I think the CLG should reconsider its decision,” Anderson said Wednesday.
Told about Anderson’s comments, Portsmouth Mayor Jack Blalock said “it’s probably time for Portsmouth and Greenland to meet again and see where we’re going with the situation.” He also expressed concern about the elevated 1,4-dioxane well test.
“I know if I was in their situation I would be very concerned,” Blalock said about the St. Johns.
Dr. Tom Sherman, a former state representative and former chairman of the Seacoast Pediatric Cancer Cluster, said the homeowners should get a permanent solution to the contamination “as soon as possible.”
“Then we absolutely need to get the tests back from the course as quickly as we can,” Sherman said Wednesday.
A call to a golf course official Wednesday was not immediately returned.
“Very importantly we also need to think about how do we stop the migration of all these contaminants from the landfill,” Sherman said. “ … I’m not willing to wait with an open ended (time limit) on dealing with the surface water and groundwater contamination. That needs to happen now.”
Hoffman stressed Wednesday the “detection of 1,4-dioxane in these two wells site is not a new occurrence.”
“We’re not seeing this as necessarily an expanding of the plume related to Coakley,” he said. “It isn’t a changed condition. It’s a changed standard that’s prompted this action.”