$10M in federal funding delivered for military base water contamination study
By JEFF MCMENEMY | The Portsmouth Herald | Published: September 10, 2018
PORTSMOUTH, N.H. (Tribune Content Agency) — The Department of Defense has transferred $10 million to a federal agency so it can move forward with the first national health impact study on people exposed to PFAS chemicals in their water, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen announced Monday.
The DOD transferred the money to the Agency For Toxic Substances and Disease Registry for the study Shaheen established in the fiscal year 2018 National Defense Authorization Act.
Shaheen, D-N.H., a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, also secured authorization to fund the study that the ATSDR will be conducting.
Thousands of people working at the Pease International Tradeport, along with children and infants who attended two day-care centers there, were exposed to multiple PFAS chemicals from contaminated water in the city-owned Haven well up until its closure in 2014.
"I'm glad to share with our community that the health-impact study is moving forward, and efforts are underway to finally deliver answers to families in New Hampshire and beyond who have been affected by PFAS contamination in their drinking water supplies," Shaheen said Monday. "Pease's inclusion in this study will have a far-reaching influence and provide insight to other Granite State cities and towns that are similarly struggling with PFAS exposure."
Shaheen credited the work done by local residents who have advocated for answers about the health impact to their family members who have been exposed to PFAS chemicals at Pease.
"I'll keep working to get New Hampshire residents the information they need and deserve, and will continue to reach across the aisle to advance research and response measures to combat emerging contaminant exposure," Shaheen said.
Shaheen worked to include an additional $10 million for the second year of the health-impact study, which was authorized in the FY2019 National Defense Authorization Act and appropriated in the defense funding legislation that passed the Senate in August.
Shaheen also worked to include specific language in the FY2019 defense bill that streamlines the process of transferring funds from the Defense Department to ATSDR, which will facilitate the funding process of the study going forward.
The city of Portsmouth closed the polluted well at the former Air Force base in May 2014 after the Air Force found high levels of perfluorooctane sulfonic acid, or PFOS, in the well.
The EPA in May 2016 set permanent health advisories for PFOS and perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA at 70 parts per trillion.
In addition to being a suspected carcinogen, the ATSDR has stated PFAS exposure can harm childhood development, increase cholesterol levels, hurt the immune system and interfere with the human body's hormones.
The ATSDR earlier this year announced that the Pease community will be included in the national PFAS health study, as well as a separate pilot study after Shaheen and the rest of the state's congressional delegation pushed to have the region included in the study.
Portsmouth mother Andrea Amico, who co-founded the Testing for Pease community group and website, said Monday the news that the money has been transferred is a "huge relief."
"It's very exciting that the funds have actually been transferred because now work on the study can keep moving forward," Amico said. "We've been anxiously waiting for the funds to be transferred and have been inquiring about it quite a bit."
Amico said Testing for Pease has received commitments from the ATSDR stating it would keep moving forward on the study even as they waited for the money from DOD.
"That way when the funds get there everything will be ready to go," Amico said.
She praised Shaheen and the rest of the state's congressional delegation for all the work they've done to ensure the study would go forward, and that Pease would be included in the study.
"This is just a really positive step in the right direction to keep the study on track," Amico said. "This is an unprecedented type of study and it's even more impressive that DOD is funding it."
Amico stressed the importance of having someone like Shaheen, a senior senator who serves on the Armed Services Committee, working on the community's behalf.
"I think Sen. Shaheen has played a critical role in several pieces of legislation pertaining to PFAS, but this particular piece of legislation is just so incredibly important to the families in the Pease community," Amico said. "Without her leadership and seniority in the Senate, I don't think this would have happened."
Amico also referenced the men and women from the 157th Air Refueling Wing at the Pease Air National Guard Base who have come forward recently to share their concerns about what they believes is the high number of cancers at the base.
"This study is really important to so many members of the Pease community to get started as soon as possible so it can help contribute to the science on these chemicals," Amico said. "There's so many different types of people impacted at Pease, children, adults, current military and former military.
"They all have serious concerns," she added.