Town will test drinking water

  • Rodney Bartlett, the Peterborough town administrator, speaks about the municipal water supply at the deliberative session last week. STAFF PHOTO BY BENJI ROSEN

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 4/11/2016 7:30:06 PM

With news that a manufacturing byproduct has contaminated drinking water in parts of southern New Hampshire and Vermont, Peterborough will test its water for the chemical.

This year, the town will test the municipal water supply for Perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA – a byproduct of manufacturing Teflon that the N.H. Department of Environmental Services has linked to polluted tap water in Merrimack and Litchfield.

Yet, Peterborough said including the chemical to the list of contaminants it already tests for is simply “precautionary.”

“We have no reason to believe there is any indications of PFOA contamination,” said Rodney Bartlett, the town administrator. “We are diligent about our water quality.”

PFOA is a man-made chemical with murky health effects. It is used to manufacture products that are resistant to heat, oil, stains, grease and water. They can include nonstick cookware, outdoor clothing and gear that is weather resistant and stain-resistant carpeting, writes DES.

The health effects of PFOA “are not well understood,” DES writes. Studies of how it and similar chemicals can affect growth and development, hormone levels or cancer have been “inconclusive” and the Environmental Protection Agency said evidence is too limited to link them to cancer, DES writes. Yet, its concentration in water in Merrimack, Litchfield and parts of southern Vermont, as well as the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, has led to panic in parts of the state.

Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics is the likely source of contamination, with its manufacturing facilities in Merrimack and Vermont. DES has requested the manufacturer react accordingly. As samples of drinking water in Litchfield and Merrimack have shown high concentrations of PFOA, Saint-Gobain has delivered bottled water. DES requested the manufacturer clean, treat and restore the water there. As the fallout there continues, Peterborough isn’t taking any chances, said Barbara Miller, chair of the Select Board, at the deliberative session.

The town will add PFOA to the list of contaminants it tests for in the municipal water supply. It will test its wells – the North, Summer Street and Tarbell wells – for the contaminant, said Bartlett at the deliberative session. The town will publish the results on its website, as well as in the Ledger-Transcript, he said.

The town monitors the municipal water supply around the clock, as well as routinely tests the water. The water is tested for bacteria once every month and copper and lead every three years.

The town launched a campaign last year for residents to test private wells for arsenic as well, since bedrock in New England is susceptible to arsenic leaching. The three municipal wells are shallow, gravel-packed wells that aren’t susceptible to arsenic contamination, said Bartlett.

Benji Rosen can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 228. Follow him on Twitter @BenjiRosenMLT

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