New Hampshire Proposes MCLs for PFAS Compounds…But Many Aren’t Cheering the Proposals

This week we continue our reporting on the state by state regulatory patch work involving per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).

On Wednesday, January 2, 2019, officials in New Hampshire announced a set of proposed drinking water rules outlining Maximum Contaminant Levels (MCLs) and Ambient Groundwater Quality Standards (AGQSS) for four PFAS compounds. The new rules were issued along with a summary report prepared by the NH Department of Environmental Services (NHDES).

According to the report, NHDES considered 1) the extent each contaminant is found in NH; 2) the ability to detect the compound; 3) the ability to treat the contaminant; 4) benefits associated with adopting an MCL; and 5) the costs associated with adopting an MCL. The new standards only apply to public water systems serving 25 or more of the same population of people for six months of the year. The proposed levels coming out of NH, however, buck the recent trend set by several other states in which the MCLs are significantly lower than U.S. EPA’s current guidance levels for PFAS.

NH’s proposed MCLs are:

PFOA – 38 parts per trillion (ppt);

PFOS – 70 ppt;

PFOA & PFOS (combined) – 70 ppt;

PFHxS – 85 ppt; and

PFNA – 23 ppt.

These proposed MCLs were developed following NH’s recent public issues with PFOA exposure. Notably, in August 2018, the state issued a warning regarding PFOA contamination at a former industrial site in Merrimack, NH. The report was issued a year after PFOA levels of 88 ppt were reported in the groundwater at the site. According to a separate consent decree , PFAS compounds were also detected in wells in the towns of Bedford, Litchfield, Manchester, and Merrimack. The consent decree required the site owner to construct expansions to the municipal water systems, install point-of-entry treatment systems, establish a groundwater management zone, and develop a remedial action plan.

Turning to nearby NY — as we previously reported, on December 18, 2018, the NY Drinking Water Council released recommendations to the Department of Health proposing MCLs for PFOA, PFOS, and 1, 4-dioxane. The Council recommended MCLs of 10 ppt for both PFOA and PFOS, respectively. NY’s Commissioner of Health is now considering the recommendations and if accepted, the recommendations must go through a public comment period. If promulgated, the proposed levels in NY will be the nation’s most protective MCLs and the nation’s only MCL for 1, 4-dioxane.

NH, in contrast to NY, has its health officials expressing disapproval over the state’s proposed MCLs. Officials cite to the lower MCLs in states such as VT, NJ, and NY. For example, VT currently has a combined PFOA and PFOS MCL of 20 ppt, which is 50 ppt lower than the new MCL proposed by New Hampshire. Minnesota has a Health Risk Limit for PFOS in drinking water of 27 ppt, or 43 ppt lower than NH’s new MCL. NJ also has significantly lower MCLs, with an MCL of just 14 ppm for PFOAs.

Notably, the chair of the NH’s Senate Health and Human Services Committee plans to hold a hearing to understand the science behind how the NHDES developed the proposed MCLs. Health officials in NH have expressed alarm that the proposed standards are not significantly different from the advisory levels currently set by the U.S. EPA that many believe are simply inadequate.

What’s up next in NH? The public hearings for the proposed MCLs are set to take place in March and are a sure bet to be lively forum.

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