Seacoast NH clean water advocate urges Biden, EPA to focus on PFAS chemicals

A view of the main gate area at Pease Air Force Base, N.H., in October, 1987. The shields on the sign represent Strategic Air Command; the 45th Air Division; the 509th Bombardment Wing; and the 157th Air Refueling Group-N.H. Air National Guard.


By JEFF MCMENEMY | Foster's Daily Democrat, Dover, N.H. | Published: January 23, 2021

PORTSMOUTH, N.H. (Tribune News Service) — Testing For Pease co-founder Andrea Amico is "optimistic" that President Joe Biden's administration will work to better regulate dangerous PFAS chemicals now that he's in office.

"We need incredibly protective standards to protect people from ongoing exposure, and not only people impacted at military sites like we were at Pease, but also at industrial sites like we see in Merrimack, along with firefighters," Amico, a Portsmouth mother of three, said during an interview Friday. "I am optimistic that we will see more action from the Biden EPA than we did from the Trump EPA."

Thousands of people working at Pease International Tradeport, along with children and infants who attended two day cares there, were exposed to multiple PFAS chemicals from contaminated water in the city-owned Haven well until its closure in 2014.

The water was contaminated by firefighting foam used at the former Pease Air Force Base, which also exposed airmen to the contamination.

PFAS are man-made chemicals used in products worldwide since the 1950s, including firefighting foam, non-stick cookware and water-repellent fabrics.

In addition to being a suspected carcinogen, PFAS exposure can harm childhood development, increase cholesterol levels, damage the immune system and interfere with human hormones, according to the Agency For Toxic Substances and Disease Registry

Right now, the EPA has only set lifetime health advisories for perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) — two common PFAS that were found at high levels in a city-owned well at Pease — at 70 parts per trillion.

But many states across the country, including New Hampshire, have set much more protective standards for multiple PFAS chemicals, of which there are thousands.

The maximum contaminant levels (MCLs) state lawmakers passed into law are 12 parts per trillion (ppt) for PFOA, 15 ppt for PFOS, 18 ppt for perfluorohexanesulfonic acid (PFHxs) and 11 ppt for perfluorononanoic acid (PFNA).

Amico, as part of her work with the National PFAS Contamination Coalition, recently released a video calling on Biden to address PFAS contamination.

In her video, Amico stated that the Pease community is "not alone" in dealing with PFAS contamination.

"There are over 600 other military sites across the country that have been identified to have PFAS contamination as a result of using this firefighting foam," Amico says in the video. "This is a huge problem and it's not going away anytime soon."

Amico, along with others leaders of the National PFAS Contamination Coalition, posted the videos in hopes of focusing the Biden administration on the ongoing PFAS contamination issue.

"My family and others have a right to live in a healthy and safe community," Amico said in the video. "The EPA must regulate PFAS as a class and must set a maximum contaminant level of 1 part per trillion for the entire class of PFAS."

Amico hopes too that Biden creates a "PFAS czar" to help coordinate efforts across the many federal agencies that deal with the chemicals.

"I really think there needs to be more accountability at the White House level overseeing the federal agencies dealing with PFAS in order to hold them accountable for what they need to be doing."

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