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First-ever nationwide PFAS health study gets additional $10m

PORTSMOUTH — Officials conducting the first-ever nationwide health study on the impacts of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances will receive another $10 million in federal funding.

The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry is conducting the study. Pease International Tradeport in Portsmouth is serving as a model test site due to work that has already been done to assess the threat of PFAS chemicals in the area.

The now bustling business park was home to Pease Air Force Base for 60 years. Solid waste landfills, spill sites, solvent and sludge disposal as well as firefighter training areas are thought to have caused contamination.

The base was designated a Superfund site in 1990.

U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-NH, has been heavily involved in securing funding for the study in her role as a senior member of the Senate Appropriations and Armed Services Committees. She said Monday firefighting chemicals present at Pease and at military facilities across the country are a focus of the work being done. 

It is estimated that two-thirds of all designated Superfund sites are at military bases and thousands of people could potentially be affected by contamination at Pease.

“It’s so important for us to have a better idea what the health impacts are long-term,” Shaheen said, adding there is bipartisan support for the study.

Funding for the first year of the study was part of a bill signed into law in March. It included $7 million. 

The Department of Defense was directed to report on the extent of contamination in drinking water, plans for community notification and procedures for timely remediation at that time.

Shaheen said along with the new funds, specific language has been included to streamline the process of transferring funds from the Department of Defense to ATSDR.

The money was allocated as part of the annual defense bill, which was signed into law by President Donald Trump Monday afternoon.

The next community assistance panel meeting for the public to learn more about ATSDR activities at Pease will be held Sept. 20 at 6 p.m. 

The meeting is scheduled to be held at 222 International Drive in Portsmouth.