NH Delegation Calls for Pease to Be Included in Nationwide Health Impact Study

January 18, 2018

NH Delegation Calls for Pease to Be Included in Nationwide Health Impact Study

**An amendment authored by Senator Shaheen was signed into law establishing the first-ever such study**

(Washington, DC) — U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) led the New Hampshire congressional delegation, which includes Senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH) and Congresswomen Carol Shea-Porter (NH-01) and Annie Kuster (NH-02), in a letter to the Department of Defense (DOD) and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) requesting that Pease International Tradeport be included in the first-ever nationwide health impact study on per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), such as PFOA, in drinking water. Shaheen’s legislation establishing the study was included in the annual defense authorization bill and was signed into law by the President last month.

The Pease Tradeport, which formerly served as an Air Force base, has experienced considerable ground and drinking water contamination from PFAS chemicals. In May 2014, the city of Portsmouth closed the Haven well at Pease after the Air Force found levels of PFAS chemicals at 12.5 times higher than what was then the provisional health advisory from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Moreover, state health officials have determined that more than 1,500 people, including children who attended day care centers near the site, have elevated levels of PFAS in their blood from drinking contaminated groundwater near Pease.

In the letter, the delegation described the diligent efforts of town officials and community leaders to work with state and federal governments to mitigate the contamination at Pease and surrounding areas.

“In response to the contamination at Pease, New Hampshire town officials have been actively working with the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, the U.S. Air Force Civil Engineering Center, the EPA and the state’s Department of Environmental Services to develop a comprehensive water quality monitoring and sampling program as well as establish plans to remediate PFAS-contaminated areas,” wrote the delegation. “Seacoast community leaders have also created citizen-led panels to educate members of the public about the potential health effects of PFAS and drive local, state and federal government response to address this contamination.”

The delegation continued, “Together, these municipal- and community-led groups have gathered information critical to assessing the extent of the contamination, created a platform for public involvement and participation and formed close partnerships with state and federal agencies tasked with responding to the environmental and health consequences of PFAS contamination. Given the framework established by these impacted communities, we believe that the Pease International Tradeport would serve as an excellent installation to include in the health study and urge your agencies implement this study without delay.”

The text of the letter can be read in full here.

Shaheen has led efforts in Congress to address water contamination from emerging contaminants. As the lead Democrat on the Appropriations Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies Subcommittee, Shaheen included a provision in the subcommittee’s annual appropriations bill to identify research gaps to address the potential health implications associated with exposure to emerging contaminants. Additionally, Senator Shaheen introduced the Safe Drinking Water Assistance Act, bipartisan legislation that Senator Hassan cosponsored, to help expedite the analysis of contaminants, such as PFOA, and provide resources to states dealing with the health challenges posed by these potentially harmful materials. Senator Hassan also cosponsored legislation requiring the EPA to develop a maximum contaminant level for perfluorinated compounds, 1,4 dioxane, and perchlorate in public water systems across America within two years of the bill’s enactment. 

Shea-Porter led efforts in the House of Representatives to authorize and secure funding for the health impact study, successfully passing legislation in the FY2018 National Defense Authorization. Additionally, Shea-Porter led a bipartisan letter, joined by Kuster, to Congressional appropriators urging an initial $7 million to launch the health impact investigation, and in August she secured an amendment to fund the study, which the House passed with unanimous support as part of its Defense Appropriations bill. An amendment cosponsored by Congresswoman Kuster was included in the House version of the FY 2018 NDAA, which required a study of the health effects on individuals exposed to perfluorooctane sulfonate and perfluorooctanoic acid from firefighting foams used at military installations.