Portsmouth’s Amico gets EPA honor for PFAS fightNovember 07, 2018
PORTSMOUTH — Local mother and community activist Andrea Amico received a national public service award from the Environmental Protection Agency for her work advocating for families exposed to PFAS contamination at the former Pease Air Force Base.
Amico received the award from EPA Region I Administrator Alexandra Dunn during a ceremony Wednesday in City Council Chambers at City Hall.
The event was attended by U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, who has worked with Amico for years to address the water contamination, former City Councilor Stefany Shaheen, an early advocate for Amico, Mayor Jack Blalock and a crowd of Amico’s family and friends.
Dunn told the audience that Amico, a married mother of three, was the only winner of the EPA’s national Citizen’s Excellence in Community Involvement Award this year.
“Andrea your selection just proves what a force of nature you have truly been around this issue,” Dunn told Amico Wednesday. “As a mom with older kids who can barely get myself where I need to be most days, I’m not sure how you do it all. I’m so impressed by you as an advocate and just as a wonderful person who’s very thoughtful.”
Amico, co-founder of the community activist group Testing for Pease, has been an advocate for people to learn about the health impacts of PFAS exposure since May 2014, when the city shut down its Haven well at Pease International Tradeport after the Air Force found high levels of perfluorooctane sulfonic acid, or PFOS.
The EPA in May 2016 set permanent health advisories for PFOS and perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA at 70 parts per trillion. 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.
Like thousands of other people at the former air base, two of Amico’s young children and her husband were exposed to the contaminated water at the tradeport.
Dunn acknowledged it is, “much to our dismay, that this community became ground zero for the PFAS issue.”
Dunn recalled hearing about Amico after she started as Region 1 administrator. She recalled hearing in meetings “you need to talk to Andrea, you need to talk to Andrea.”
“She is very important,” Dunn said and credited Amico with the ability to “articulate for this community” to help organize other families and to “bring the issue forward and to help us through a really difficult time.”
“It is difficult,” Dunn added. “There are really no immediate answers to how we will manage the PFAS issue across the country.”
Shaheen has worked with Amico and the Testing For Pease moms, and her advocacy led to the passage of the first-ever national initiative to study the health effects of people exposed to the PFAS contaminants.
But on Wednesday, she focused her attention on Amico and told the audience the award “recognizes exceptional individuals who are leading community efforts to protect our environment and public health.”
“The fact the EPA has chosen to honor Andrea Amico for her advocacy really speaks to the difference she’s made in this community and nationally,” Shaheen said.
Earlier this year, when the Air Force said it wouldn’t pay for the health study, the Pease moms “refused to take no for an answer,” as did Shaheen, which led to the passage of the federal legislation.
Shaheen recalled speaking to other members about the Defense Authorization bill when she was fighting to get the initial $7 million for the health study.
“Every single member of the Armed Services Committee had a site in their state, a military installation that had a PFAS issue,” Shaheen said. “To me that was a wake-up call about ... just how widespread this really is.”
She too agreed Pease is “going to be ground zero for” the PFAS issue nationwide. “We’ll be fine with being at ground zero to get a study done,” Shaheen said.
Amico at times fought back tears as she accepted the award. “It sincerely means the world to me to see all of you here,” she said.
Amico thanked her Testing for Pease co-founders Alayna Davis of Dover and Michelle Dalton of Durham, for the work they’ve done together to address the issue, along with Lindsey Carmichael, a Portsmouth environmental activist whose child was also exposed to the PFAS contamination.
“The community suffered a significant environmental exposure,” Amico said.
She noted that until their kids were exposed to PFAS at the same day care at Pease, “we did not know each other.”
“These women continue to amaze me with their knowledge, organization and dedication to our community ...,” Amico said. “Although it’s an unfortunate situation that brought us together, Alayna and Michelle have become family to me, and I know they will be part of my life always.”
Amico also credited Sen. Shaheen’s work, saying “she has been a leader in Washington” on the PFAS issue.
“I have a special place in my heart for Sen. Shaheen,” Amico said.
She thanked Stefany Shaheen, the senator’s daughter, for being one of the first city councilors to be “outspoken and supportive” in the community’s efforts to get answers about the PFAS exposure.
She also paid tribute to U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan, who could not attend Wednesday’s ceremony, but sent a representative, for her support on the issue. Amico recently testified before a congressional hearing on the PFAS issue at Hassan’s invitation this year.
She thanked her family for “their unconditional support of my community advocacy work over the last four and a half years.”
The advocacy she’s taken is important to not only her family, but “so many of our neighbors,” Amico said.
By: Jeff McMenemy
Source: Seacoast Online
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