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Sununu signs PFAS water protection bills for New Hampshire

New Hampshire Governor Inauguration
Gov. Chris Sununu claps for the Executive Council after swearing them in at his inauguration ceremony in the Executive Council Chamber at the State House in Concord, N.H., on Jan. 7, 2021. (David Lane/AP)

Sununu signs PFAS water protection bills for New Hampshire

August 26, 03:00 PM August 26, 03:00 PM

Gov. Chris Sununu has signed several bills aimed at reducing ‘forever chemicals’ and other contamination in New Hampshire’s drinking water systems.

Topping the raft of legislation signed by Sununu is HB 236, which will allow private property owners to sue polluters if they have experienced contamination from per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances. The new law sets a six-month statute of limitations on legal claims.

Sununu also signed HB 235, which is aimed at protecting private well owners whose water could be contaminated by setting new rules on small groundwater withdrawals.

“There’s no greater faith placed in the government than when you turn on your faucet, fill up a glass and hand it to your kids,” Sununu said in a statement. “We still have a long way to go, but the work we have done in the past few years has just been monumental and these bills are yet another giant step forward for communities across New Hampshire.”

Another bill, HB 271, directs the state Department of Environmental Services to establish maximum contaminant limits for PFAS compounds and we will provide grants and loans to local governments to test for and remediate the contaminants.

The bill’s primary sponsor, state Rep. Rosemarie Rung, D-Merrimack, called its approval “monumental” and said it will give private well owners and local governments the “tools they need to remediate toxic PFAS chemicals that pose a significant risk to their life and health.”

“Everyone deserves the ability to drink their water without fear of health consequences,” Rung said in a statement.

The Legislature earmarked $50 million for the new grant program as part of the recently approved state budget, according to the Sununu administration.

PFAS chemicals were once used in products ranging from rain coats and firefighting foam to nonstick pans. They have been dubbed “forever chemicals” because they accumulate in the human body and can take thousands of years to degrade.

Research has found potential links between high levels of PFAS and illnesses, ranging from kidney cancer to high cholesterol and problems in pregnancies.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has classified the compounds as an “emerging contaminant” linked to liver cancer and other serious health problems.

Dozens of states are weighing proposals to eliminate PFAS in food packaging, firefighting foam and other products, in addition to setting limits on the level of contaminants in drinking water.

New Hampshire set limits on four PFAS chemicals in public drinking water supplies, from 12 to 15 ppt. The limits, which went into effect in 2019, were among the toughest in the nation.

There are currently no federal standards for PFAS in drinking water, but guidelines set a combined limit of 70 ppt.

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