The LL&S Landfill at 87 Lowell Road (near Hedgehog Pond and the ICEnter) has had several fires, dating back to the mid-1980s, including a major, 5-alarm fire, in September 2015. Fire fighters may have used an aqueous film forming foam, (AFFF) at some of these fires. AFFF’s are very efficient at smothering fires, especially flammable liquid fires.
While they are very efficient, some AFFFs contain, and break down in the environment, into perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS), perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) or other perfluorocarboxylic acids (PFCAs). These contain long-chain perfluorinated chemicals (LCPFCs) containing eight or more carbons. (1)
PFOS has been known to be a persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic pollutant since at least 2002. (Bioaccumulative essentially means that it can build up in human tissue.) In 2009, PFOS appended to the international environmental treaty, Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants. The United States, and other countries, including Canada, the European Union, Australia and Japan, have now banned the new production of PFOS-based products. Eight fluorochemical manufacturers voluntarily agreed to eliminate by year-end 2015 both plant emissions and product content of PFOA, PFOA precursors, and similar chemicals. (1)
Now firefighting foams are made with shorter-chain compounds (C6 and below), which have a lower potential for toxicity and bioaccumulation. (1)
PFOA & PFOS in Salem water:
Up to 560 ppt found. Up to 70 ppt allowed.
The NH Department of Environmental Services (DES) has installed at least 10 monitoring wells surround the LL&S Landfill property in Salem. They have been monitoring the quality of the underground water since 1984. The New Hampshire’s Ambient Groundwater Quality Standard was recently set at 70 parts per trillion (ppt) for any combination of PFOA and PFOS. (2)
NHDES requested that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) test water samples from ten monitoring wells adjacent to the landfill. The EPA found groundwater samples containing PFOA concentrations ranging from 2.5 (ppt) to 560 ppt, and PFOS concentrations ranging from 1.3 ppt to 260 ppt. (2) Nine wells had levels above the safety threshold of 70 ppt. Two of these wells had totals above 400 ppt. (3)
According to DES, they have sampled five wells, and are scheduled to test five more. They report that they have not received any test results. (It is unclear, but we presume that this is in addition to the original ten monitoring wells that they reported one week earlier.) (4)
We are seeing more reports of contaminated water as “Nationwide sampling for PFOA, PFOS and four other PFCs in drinking water began in 2013, under an EPA program that periodically requires all U.S. public water systems serving 10,000 or more people to test for contaminants that are not yet regulated.as these chemicals have only been tested since 2013. (5)
Wikipedia reports that “PFOA persists indefinitely in the environment. It is a toxicant and carcinogen in animals. PFOA has been detected in the blood of more than 98% of the general US population in the low and sub-parts per billionrange, and levels are higher in chemical plant employees and surrounding subpopulations. How general populations are exposed to PFOA is not completely understood. PFOA has been detected in industrial waste, stain resistant carpets, carpet cleaning liquids, house dust, microwave popcorn bags, water, food, some cookware and PTFE such as Teflon.” (5) DuPont made the news as the result of a major class-action suit for concealing health concerns re: PFOAs for 50 years. (6)
Salem Residents Affected
Town water is NOT affected. The extent of the problem, if any, only impacts those with private wells.
About 50 neighbors within a half-mile radius of LL&S Landfill were notified: A couple of duplexes on Lowell Road and some homes on Quill Lane and Porcupine Circle, all of whom have private wells. (3)
The Department of Environmental Services is offering free well testing to any of the notified residents. There will be about a 4-week turn-around. Should contaminated well water be found, those homes will be provided with bottled water. (3)
“At this point, I don’t think the nearby residents or businesses should panic at all,” said town manager Leon Goodwin. “What I think we should all do, though, is be proactive in getting private wells within that half-mile radius tested.” (3)
“Unlike the Saint-Goblin <sic> site, where contamination appears to have traveled through the air, “we are pretty confident that this is more of a traditional groundwater contamination coming from the unlined landfill,” [said DES public information officer Jim] Martin. (3) This is why they are targeting a small area.
The Saint-Gobain contamination in Merrimack and Litchfield has attracted international attention, including that of environmental activist, Erin Brockovich. Salem’s contamination is believed to be much smaller, possibly closer to that of the issues found at Pease Air Force Base, and, hopefully, much smaller.
The Union Leader reports that Salem Town Manager, Leon Goodwin, has said that Hedgehog Park will be tested this week, with results due in a month. “But there’s reason to think the pond might be spared, depending on its water sources: PFCs from the site seep into groundwater, not directly into surface water. Despite Saint-Gobain’s proximity to the Merrimack River, PFOA levels in the river were low.” (3)
What can you do?
Meeting in Merrimack: June 29
There will be a public meeting to provide an update on the ongoing investigation of perfluorochemicals found in southern NH drinking water on Wednesday, June 29, 2016 at 7:00 p.m. at the James Mastricola Upper Elementary School all-purpose room 26 Baboosic Lake Road, Merrimack, NH 03054. (4)
Meeting in Salem: Early July
Watch for details for a preliminary informational meeting for concerned Salem residents in early July. (4) [UPDATE: NH Department of Environmental Services (NHDES) is scheduled for July 5, 7:00, Salem HS, at the Selectmen’s Meeting.]
Is Your Drinking Water Safe? http://www.ewg.org/enviroblog/2015/08/your-drinking-water-safe
Follow Bonnie. She’s looking out for Salem.
Bonnie (W)right for Salem!
It’s been four days, and Salem residents still haven’t heard about contaminated water (June 8) — http://www.eagletribune.com/news/it-s-been-four-days-and-salem-residents-still-haven/article_e37855c3-b737-5f4a-bfb1-4c79ae4edbae.html
Salem residents concerned about contaminated water. DES, town starting to get calls (June 7) — http://www.eagletribune.com/news/new_hampshire/salem-residents-concerned-about-contaminated-water/article_909f3ce1-6708-5d9e-9649-f0814f8a0083.html
Firefighting Foam May Have Contaminated New Hampshire Well Water (June 6) http://www.firefighternation.com/article/news-2/firefighting-foam-may-have-contaminated-new-hampshire-well-water
Potentially harmful chemicals found at closed New Hampshire landfill (June 5) — http://www.wastedive.com/news/potentially-harmful-chemicals-found-at-closed-new-hampshire-landfill/420351/
Officials: Elevated levels of PFOA measured near landfill (AP)
June 4: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2016/jun/4/officials-elevated-levels-of-pfoa-measured-near-la/
June 6: http://www.reformer.com/state/ci_29985140/officials-elevated-levels-pfoa-measure-near-new-hampshire
Chemicals in Salem water linked to old landfill (June 4) —http://www.eagletribune.com/news/new_hampshire/chemicals-in-salem-water-linked-to-old-landfill/article_639a8470-250a-53ba-a557-7eec138971e4.html