New Hampshire Approves Nation’s Strictest Standards on PFAS Contaminants

New state limits in New Hampshire went into effect on September 30 for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) contaminants in public drinking water supplies.

New Hampshire Public Radio reports the standards require local water utilities to test for four types of the PFAS contaminants every quarter. If they find a PFAS level that’s above the state’s new limits, the utilities must switch to a different water source or develop costly treatment systems.

The four types of PFAS contaminants and their maximum contaminant levels are as follows:

  • Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA)—12 parts per trillion (ppt)
  • Perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS)—15 ppt
  • Perfluorohexane sulfonic acid (PFHxS)—18 ppt
  • Perfluorononanoic acid (PFNA)—11 ppt.

In 2016, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency established health advisory levels for PFOA and PFOS at 70 ppt, but several states have begun adopting their own stricter standards.

The New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services received $6 million in the new state budget to aid small systems in complying with the new law during this first year.

According to New Hampshire Public Radio, the bigger costs of the new rules will come after this first year of testing when systems that are out of compliance may have to install costly new treatment systems or decommission wells.

Clark Freise, assistant commissioner of the state Department of Environmental Services, estimates  7% to 9% of all wells in the state—public or private—contain levels of PFAS above the state’s new limits.

Private wells are not subject to these or any state regulations. But officials hope the change will encourage homeowners to do their own testing.

On the same day the state limits went into effect, a lawsuit was filed against New Hampshire from the Plymouth Village Water and Sewer District, a farmer in Center Harbor, and a fertilizer company in Holderness, as well as 3M Co., the original maker of PFAS.

In other PFAS news, the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies approved a funding measure on September 24, which includes $20 million in additional funding to help states address PFAS contamination and remediation.

Meanwhile, the House Energy and Commerce Committee approved 13 PFAS-related bills, one of which requires the EPA to set a national drinking water standard for total PFAS — not just for PFOA and PFOS (the most-studied contaminants). The full House is now considering them.