When he signed bipartisan legislation last year to establish New Hampshire specific guidelines for PFAS in drinking water, Governor Sununu said the biggest public trust is turning on the faucet and pouring your child a glass of water. We agree. That is why it was so disappointing to see New Hampshire’s recently released drinking water standards that rubber stamp the current Environmental Protection Agency’s inadequate regulation. And that is why Senate Democrats have introduced legislation to strengthen our PFAS standards.
One of the biggest concerns we hear from our constituents is the safety of their drinking water, or potential lack thereof.
New Hampshire residents expect their elected officials to work together to protect our environment and our public health.
New Hampshire has been grappling with the need to protect safe drinking water since communities across the state — including Merrimack, Amherst, and the Seacoast — found unsafe levels of PFAS in their wells. Used widely in firefighting foam, flame retardants, Teflon, and more for the past 50 years, PFAS is a family of compounds that bioaccumulate. They don’t break down in the natural environment or in our bloodstream and they have been connected to health complications including kidney and testicular cancer as well as pregnancy-induced hypertension, thyroid problems, and cholesterol issues. Unfortunately, the recently proposed maximum contaminant level (MCL) for PFAS in NH - 38 parts per trillion for PFOA and 70 parts per trillion for PFOS - does not go as far as we can to protect public health and rebuild public confidence in our water supply.
The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) has conducted studies that clearly indicate the 70 MCL, which is the current EPA and NH standard for PFAS - is set too high and will not adequately protect public health. Based on these findings, states like Vermont and New Jersey have set much stronger standards, 20 parts per trillion and 14 parts per trillion respectively.
The framework for leading on water safety is already in place. If New Hampshire is serious about protecting clean water, we must follow the lead of Vermont and New Jersey. We cannot wait for the federal government to catch up to science - especially since the EPA still refuses to even recognize PFAS as a hazardous substance, referring to it instead as an “emerging contaminant.” We must act now to protect the health and safety of Granite State families.
As New Hampshire considers the best path forward for protecting clean drinking water, we hope the conversation moves past a singular focus on industry concerns about the costs of treating water and focuses instead on the true costs of a contaminated water supply - public health and safety. We can’t put a price tag on the ability of Granite Staters to pour their child a glass of water and not worry that it will make them sick.
State Sen. Tom Sherman, D-Rye, and State Sen. Shannon Chandley, D-Amherst, are newly elected state senators.