Clean Water Bill Passes NH House January 3
House Bill 485 (HB485) “relative to standards for emerging contaminants in drinking water”, passed the House on January 3 by voice vote. It had previously passed on a roll call, 335-29, before going to the House Finance Committee.
Essentially, this bill:
I. Allows the department of environmental services to make rules regarding air pollution and the deposit of such pollutants on soils and water.
II. Regulates devices emitting or having the potential to emit air pollutants that may harm soil and water through the deposit of such pollutants.
III. Requires the commissioner of the department of environmental services to adopt ambient groundwater quality standards using certain scientific information.
IV. Establishes a toxicologist position and a human health risk assessor position in the department of environmental services. Bill full text here
The first two items give new authority to the Department of Environmental Services (DES) on air emissions where they were lacking. The third item places requirements for study and rule applications on the DES Commissioner regarding emerging contaminants such as PFOA and PFOS. These are the contaminants that have been part of the St. Gobain Performance Plastics operations in Merrimack, NH, Bennington, VT and Hoosick Falls, NY.
In New Hampshire, the various agencies i.e., executive branch departments, can make rules that have the force of law. They must have specific authority granted by the legislature. Proposed rules must go before a joint House and Senate Committee for approval.
A complicated process
Coming out of the Resources, Recreation and Development Committee, Representative Christensen brought HB485 to the floor of the House where it passed 335-29. A “Rules Change” which required a 2/3 vote was then requested and passed on a voice vote allowing the bill to go to the Finance Committee. There was information that the bill would cost cities and towns as much as $48 million, but the full fiscal report was not yet available. Unfortunately the original bill had no provisions for funding.
At the same time House Bill 463 (HB463), “regulating groundwater pollution caused by polluting emissions in the air and relative to standards for emerging contaminants in drinking water”, passed the House twice, once from the Resources Committee (water issues) and once from the Science and Technology Committee (air issues). When it got to the Senate, they amended the bill, with separate issues, and they failed to add funding for their amendment and the combined bill failed in a Committee of Conference.
Meanwhile, the House Finance Committee worked with agencies and the two policy committees to get a workable clean water and clean air emissions bill which resulted in HB485 with amendment,(HB463) that passed the House on January 3, 2018.
Knowing the importance of this issue in Merrimack, Reps.Dick Hinch, Chris Christensen, Dick Barry and Bob L’Heureux filed a similar bill in the fall of 2017 to be sure the legislature would be able to address the issue in 2018. All four are committee leaders. Rep. Hinch, who is also the House Majority Leader, is the Prime Sponsor. Co-sponsors include the Senate President Chuck Morse and the Senate Majority Leader, Jeb Bradley, as well as Senator Gary Daniels who represents Merrimack.
Good Merrimack Representation
In addition to the items above, Senate President Chuck Morse,(r-Salem), and Rep. Chris Christensen are also chair and vice-chair, respectively, of the Clean Drinking and Groundwater Commission. They manage a recently established trust, funded with MtBE court settlement monies. Merrimack resident Bernie Rousseau and Town Councilor Bill Boyd also serve on the commission.
December 1, 2017
NH PFAS Investigation has posted a new item, ‘Merrimack Village District Water
Testing under the 2014/2015 U.S. EPA UCMR’
In an effort to correct some misinformation stating that Merrimack Village
District water (MVD) was not included in the U.S. EPA Unregulated Contaminant
Monitoring Rule (UCMR3) in 2014, NHDES is posting the test results here for
those tests. Also, the UCMR3 results were also shared with Merrimack residents
in the 2016 MVD Consumer Confidence Report.
UMCR3 Wells 2, […]
You may view the latest post at
PFAS FACT SHEET The Interstate Technology and Regulatory Council (ITRC) Just published a summary (17 pages) “Fact Sheet” on PFAS showing various state standards for drinking water, ground water and Lifetime Health Advisories. Not all states set standards for all three and most defer to the USEPA standards. There is a disclaimer that the information is changing rapidly and they will update periodically without specifying a schedule for updates. FACT SHEET regulations__11_13_17 ITRC
November 2, 2017
Clean Drinking Water Funds Awarded
Merrimack, NH—Representative Chris Christensen (R, Merrimack), announced that the Merrimack Village District (MVD) is on the approval list for loan funding from the New Hampshire Clean Drinking and Groundwater Advisory Commission (CDGW). For the MVD this is a $1,300,000 loan to be used for a booster pumping station for Turkey Hill. The voters will have to approve the low cost loan application at their next annual meeting..
“This is good news for the Village District which supplies water to approximately 25,000 Merrimack residents and commercial/industrial water users. Of course, adequate water quantity and pressure are also important for fire control,” he noted.
Funding for a variety of water projects throughout the state of New Hampshire were approved at the Commission’s November 2, 2017 meeting. Approximately $11 million in grants and $23 million in low cost loans were approved. In addition, funds were approved for a statewide water quality assessment project. Christensen, Vice-Chair of the Commission, explained “These are new funds received by the state as the result of a successful legal action against Exxon-Mobil over contamination of water caused by MtBE, a gasoline additive intended to make engines burn cleaner and improve air quality. MtBE was banned in New Hampshire in 2007. The state commenced legal action against gasoline companies and all but one settled, providing funds to remediate MtBE sites.” Now, the additional funds, about $240 million, have been placed in trust with the Commission establishing guidelines for use. In 2016, in anticipation of a favorable Supreme Court ruling, Senate Bill 380 was passed establishing a trust fund and the advisory commission. The commission has broad discretion for a variety of water solutions, but the funds cannot be diverted for other purposes.
Page 2 of 2
The Commission, chaired by Senate President Chuck Morse (R-Salem) had two initial goals. “First, we wanted to get some money out quickly for projects that had stalled for lack of funding,” Christensen continued. “Next we wanted to establish rules and procedures for future projects, whether MtBE or some other need to provide and protect clean drinking water, on a sustainable basis. Working with the NH State Treasurer, the Commission also approved an investment policy that will contribute to long term fund viability.
The Commission is made up of 20 stakeholders, legislators and executive branch agency representatives. In addition to Christensen, Merrimack Town Councilor Bill Boyd and Pennichuck Water Works Vice-President Bernie Rousseau, a Merrimack resident, are members of the Commission.
Here is a project summary Nov. 2 2017 approved November 2, 2017
October 10, 2017 Public Meeting with DES and DHHS can be viewed online
This meeting was a follow on to the individual “Office Hours” held in Merrimack in September. On the dais were Public Health Director Lisa Morris, Dr. Benjamin Chan (both DHHS) and Assistant DES Commissioner Clark Freise. Approximately 100 people attended in person along with Merrimack’s eight State Representatives, Senator Daniels, Town Council and MVD Commissioners. Several staff members from state organizations also attended. The meeting lasted three hours.
In 2016, St. Gobain Performance Plastics reported to the NH Deportment of Environmental Services that they had detected perfluorooctanaic acid in their water bubblers. They had been testing for this PFOA since they had plants in Vermont and New York that had been linked to similar contamination. The Merrimack Village District supplies water to St. Gobain. MVD wells #4 and #5 were quickly taken off line as tests revealed that those wells had a level of contamination above the US Environmental Protection Agency limit of 70 parts per trillion. DES started an aggressive program of well testing in a radius around the St. Gobain plant and started supplying bottled drinking water to households with contaminated water above the 70 ppt level. The Merrimack Village District (MVD) now supplies water within safe drinking water standards using other wells. They are also in the process of establishing additional supplies with new wells. DES has been negotiating with St. Gobain in efforts to have them pay for remediation of and/or filtration systems for wells #4 and #5. Additional households in Merrimack, Litchfield, Bedford and Amherst will be added to public water system extensions in these towns. “Point of Use” filters e.g. at the kitchen sink, and “point of entry” systems (whole house)are being considered for places where a community water system connection is not feasible.
In the NH House of Representatives, we heard several bills related to these issues as well as water contamination on the seacoast attributed to Pease Air Force Base (now Pease Tradeport) and the (now closed) Coakley Landfill in Greenland. Two bills stand out. House Bill 485 relative to standards for emerging contaminants in drinking water and HB 463 regulating groundwater pollution caused by polluting emissions in the air and relative to standards for emerging contaminants in drinking water
The House voted by a two thirds majority to send HB485 to the Finance Committee which retained the bill for additional work. In a sleight of hand move to override that 2/3 vote, the Senate added HB485 language to HB463, which then failed in a committee of conference with House committee members feeling an obligation to uphold the previously voted House positions. HB485 will be reported out of committee by Novemeber 1, and will go to the floor in January. The language of HB463 will also come back in 2018 as the House thought this was an important issue to support.
DARTMOUTH ASSISTANCE ?
Dartmouth College offers pro bono, unbiased research services to the legislatures of New Hampshire and Vermont. There is considerable literature in place outlining various water testing studies. My awareness of these is that they tend to focus on numbers, parts per billion, trillion, etc, but do not offer regulatory solutions that are practical to implement. In August 2017, I requested their assistance in this matter. They are currently considering requests from NH and VT and will announce their selected projects this fall, perhaps in September. There was agreement that this was a very current and important issue for both states.