PORTSMOUTH � A group of Democratic state lawmakers criticized President Donald Trump Friday for what they say is his failure to protect Granite Staters from dangerous PFAS chemicals in drinking water.
State Sen. Martha Fuller Clark, D-Portsmouth, said Democrats in the Statehouse � along with the state�s Democratic congressional delegation in Washington � have worked hard to “keep all of our communities safe and healthy.”
“Donald Trump and Republicans continue to ignore the dangerous effects of PFAS and threaten to exacerbate this crisis,” Fuller Clark said during a press conference Friday morning outside the runway at the former Pease Air Force Base.
She pointed to Trump�s recent threat to veto the PFAS Action Act and his decision to end federal protection of many of the nation�s streams and wetlands.
Fuller Clark stated if Trump�s policy change moves forward these “essential protections could be repealed.” “Trump and the Republicans are toxic, that�s what we want to make clear,” she said.
Fuller Clark said the state and Seacoast are facing a “PFAS crisis” that has reached “alarming levels,” and added she was “particularly concerned with regard to what we have seen at Pease right here in my community.”
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. Air Force officials believe the water was contaminated by firefighting foam used at the base. Haven well draws water from underneath the runway at the former air base.
The Air Force closed Pease in 1991 and the state redeveloped it as a business park that is now home to more than 10,000 jobs. Pease remains a Superfund cleanup site.
The Air Force put a groundwater treatment plant in operation last year that removes PFAS, part of a $58 million investment to date to protect drinking water around the tradeport.
PFAS has also been found at high levels in monitoring wells around the closed Coakley landfill, also a Superfund site, in North Hampton and Greenland, as well as many other sites across the state. Coakley, which accepted waste from from 1972 to 1982 and then incinerator waste from a Pease facility until 1985, was permitted by the N.H. Department of Environmental Services and managed by the city of Portsmouth.
PFAS are man-made chemicals used in products worldwide since the 1950s, including firefighting foam, non-stick cookware and water-repellent fabrics and carpet. They also have a range of applications in the aerospace, aviation, automotive and electronics industries, among others.
In addition to being a suspected carcinogen, the Agency For Toxic Substances and Disease Registry states PFAS exposure can harm childhood development, increase cholesterol levels, hurt the immune system and interfere with the human body�s hormones.
State Sen. Tom Sherman, D-Rye, a physician, stated it was “really appropriate” the lawmakers gathered at Pease because “it was the waste at Pease containing PFAS from firefighting foam that went over to Coakley and now most of the Seacoast has some level of contamination.”
Air Force officials deny the base sent industrial waste and recyclable petroleum products to the landfill.
Sherman noted state lawmakers have worked in a bipartisan manner to address PFAS contamination in the state. But the Trump administration “is actually blocking moves to protect the American public,” he said.
He said New Hampshire has the highest pediatric, breast and esophageal cancer rates in the country and talked about how important it is to protect residents from “environmentally triggered illnesses.”
“The White House is fighting that effort,” he added.
He said 3M, the leading manufacturer of PFAS chemistry in the United States, joined a lawsuit that has delayed implementation of a bill he drafted to set more protective Maximum Contaminant Levels for PFAS chemicals in water. But his new bill, SB 287, seeks to make the new standards state law.
“I�m confident the governor (Republican Chris Sununu) will sign it because it is his own department that actually came up with these new limits,” he said about the standards set by the state DES.
Those new levels, he said, “are protective of newborns, fetuses and pregnant women. That�s the reason they�re so low.”
The state of Minnesota settled its lawsuit against 3M for $850 million in 2018. The state�s attorney general sued 3M in 2010 alleging its production of PFAS damaged drinking water and natural resources in that state.
State Rep. David Meuse, D-Portsmouth, reported city residents recently learned “every single source of water in Portsmouth now has detectable levels of PFAS.”
He recently introduced legislation to extend for two years the work of the Seacoast Cancer Cluster Investigation.
“I think it�s absolutely essential to continue to study the links between these chemicals and their potential impact on public health,” Meuse said.
New Hampshire Sierra Club Chapter Director Catherine Corkery said “a clean drinking water supply is critical to our public health and to our environment and quality of life.”
“Due to the corporate polluters and politicians like President Trump, who are doing the bidding of the polluters, many Granite Staters do not have clean drinking water,” she said during Friday�s press conference.