WATER QUALITY

PFC's Found at Coakley Landfill

Preliminary test results of eight wells show elevated levels of PFC’s at the Coakley landfill. The following is an article by Jeff McMenemy of Seacoast Online, published June 30, 2016.

The wells were tested after concerns were raised by area residents that exposure from contaminants at the landfill – and several other potential sites – could be triggering a Seacoast pediatric cancer cluster.

Jim Martin, public information officer for the state Department of Environmental Services, said the combined test results for perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) ranged anywhere from 71 parts per trillion to 1,108 parts per trillion.

PFOS and PFOA are a class of chemicals known as perfluorochemicals or PFCs. The Environmental Protection Agency recently set its permanent health advisory for PFOS and PFOA at 70 parts per trillion.

The federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry has stated that studies on people exposed to PFCs showed certain PFCs may be associated with developmental delays in the fetus and child, decreased fertility, increased cholesterol, changes to the immune system and prostate, kidney and testicular cancer.

Letters went out Thursday to people living near the now closed landfill in North Hampton and Greenland stating DES would be setting up appointments so their private wells can be tested for the contaminants, Martin said late Thursday afternoon. He did not have an exact number of how many private wells would be tested, but said it’s likely many will be wells previously tested before for other contaminants found at or around Coakley landfill.

“Previous testing has been done on some of these properties,” Martin said.

DES will only provide bottled water to homeowners whose water tests show levels of PFCs above the state’s Ambient Groundwater Quality Standard of 70 parts per trillion (ppt), Martin said. “We wouldn’t do that as a preventative measure,” he said.

DES is hoping to have the sampling done in the “next couple of weeks,” Martin said, and the tests will be analyzed by the EPA’s regional lab in Chelmsford, Massachusetts.

Several Seacoast children have died from rhabdomyosarcoma, or RMS, one of the two rare types of childhood cancer the state determined was part of a Seacoast cancer cluster.

The state looked at the number of RMS cases in Rye, New Castle, Greenland, North Hampton and Portsmouth, according to a report it released. While investigating the RMS cases, the state also identified a second cancer cluster involving a rare pediatric cancer called pleuropulmonary blastoma (PPB).

Tests for PFCs were done at the monitoring wells in response to a request by state Rep. Tom Sherman, D-Rye, and the town of North Hampton. The tested wells were previously installed to monitor the potential impact of the landfill on groundwater, according to a joint press release from DES and EPA.

The test results are “still under third party review for quality assurance,” according to the release.

The Coakley Landfill Group, an organization of municipalities that brought trash to the landfill, will also be required to do tests farther from the landfill site, according to Jim Murphy, who works on EPA Superfund sites. Murphy said the monitoring wells that were tested are “almost on the fence line” of the landfill.

Sherman called the plan to test private wells and monitoring wells outside the landfill “absolutely the most prudent step to take.”

“They need to test until they get to a point where they’re negative,” Sherman, a doctor, said about future tests for PFCs. “They also need to do it as quickly as possible.”

He raised the question if the nearby private wells were “drawing off a plume” and in turn drawing the plume (containing PFCs) closer to their wells. “What is the extent of the plume and what is the continued risk of using the wells,” Sherman said.

Depending on what further tests show, part of the remediation for the contamination could be “shutting down wells that are drawing it.”

“Number one, I’m glad they did the tests,” Sherman said. “The next step is to figure out what it means. We’ve got a lot of work to do.”

He also suggested state and federal officials should discuss testing surface water for “PFCs that drain out of Coakley.” “I think it’s prudent to at least raise the question,” Sherman said.

The investigation into the pediatric cancer cluster shows why “it’s so important that we understand the impact of industry on our environment,” Sherman said.

“It’s a direct health impact,” he added. “We have to make sure we don’t let this happen in the future.”