(Washington, DC)—Today, U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) announced that the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) will be conducting a study at Pease International Tradeport to examine the health impacts of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). The study, part of a broader national study established through legislation authored by Senator Shaheen, will be detailed at Thursday’s Community Assistance Panel (CAP) meeting at Pease. Pease will serve as the ATSDR’s model test site, reflecting the thorough work that has already been done to assess the threat of PFAS chemicals in the area. The study conducted at Pease will help to refine the agency’s collection methods and analyses, as well as mitigate any challenges to implementation prior to rolling out the study to multiple sites across the country. The information collected in Pease, as the model test site, will be included in the larger, multi-site health study. Senator Shaheen has worked with federal agencies, including ATSDR, on behalf of impacted local residents to have Pease be a focus of this national study so that the specific circumstances surrounding contamination in New Hampshire can be better understood.
“Seacoast families deserve answers about the health impacts of PFAS chemicals and I’m happy to report that Pease will be a center piece of the first nationwide PFAS study, getting us one step closer to that goal,” said Shaheen. “These families have waited far too long for peace of mind and should be able to trust their drinking water. This important development is a testament to the outstanding work that has been done locally to document exposure– information that will be invaluable to this study and guide communities across the country on best practices. I look forward to working with ATSDR and the Department of Defense to ensure this study is implemented as soon as possible.”
Andrea Amico of Portsmouth founded Testing for Pease, a community group advocating on behalf of the families in Portsmouth who have been affected by the water contamination. “The community is very pleased to learn that Pease was chosen as the first site to participate in the multi-site PFAS study with ATSDR,” said Amico. “My hope is that this study will help give impacted community members answers to their health related questions and concerns. As one of the first military sites to identify their PFAS contamination, Pease has been a leader since 2014 in blazing a path for other communities to follow and paving the way for the entire nation. The opportunity to be in the multi-site PFAS health study with ATSDR allows us to continue that leadership and put processes in place that will benefit millions of impacted Americans across the country. I am hopeful that the results of this study will contribute to the evolving and necessary science needed on PFAS contamination and help give parents like me more answers to our health related questions and concerns. I am so appreciative of Senator Shaheen's leadership, strong support, and hard work from her and her staff on this important issue facing many sites in New Hampshire and across our nation.”
"As a member of the Pease community, I am extremely happy to learn that Pease will be included in the National PFAS health study,” said Lindsey Carmichael, a Portsmouth resident and member of CAP and Testing for Pease. “I’m hopeful that the study will shed new light on the health risks posed by exposure to the PFAS class of chemicals and that it will help pave the way for more stringent regulations around the presence of PFAS in water systems across the country. Our community learned about the contamination at Pease four years ago this month, so we are anxious for the study to begin. We would not be where we are today without the support of our congressional delegation, and Senator Shaheen’s staff in particular. This is a difficult issue to navigate and the Senator and her staff have provided exceptional support."
In 2014, the city of Portsmouth closed a major water supply well located at Pease after the Air Force found PFAS in the drinking water at levels 12.5 times higher than what was then the provisional health advisory from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In response to the contamination at Pease, state and local officials have been actively working with the ATSDR, 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. Seacoast community leaders have also created citizen-led panels to educate members of the public about the potential health effects of PFAS and drive a local, state and federal government response to address this contamination. The framework established by these municipal- and community-led groups allows ATSDR to move ahead to look at links between exposure and health outcomes.
In addition to establishing the health impact study, Shaheen secured the necessary funding for the study in the government funding bill that was signed into law in March. Shaheen has led efforts in Congress to respond to the pervasive problem of emerging contaminants in water supplies across the country, including New Hampshire. Last month, Shaheen introduced the PFAS Registry Act with Senator Mike Rounds (R-SD), legislation that would create a national database for service members and veterans experiencing health problems possibly due to contamination from PFAS materials. Senator Shaheen has also introduced the Safe Drinking Water Assistance Act, bipartisan legislation that will help expedite the analysis of contaminants and provide resources to states dealing with the health challenges posed by these potentially harmful materials.