Legislators Aim to Tackle PFAS Issues Even as Saint-Gobain Plant Closure Looms
In the aftermath of the unexpected announcement of the closure of the Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics plant in Merrimack, New Hampshire, state representatives are intensifying their efforts to address PFAS pollution, or “forever chemicals.” Despite the impending shutdown of the facility, lawmakers are steadfast in demanding accountability, healthcare support, and comprehensive changes in how PFAS concerns are handled.
Leading the charge is Representative Nancy Murphy, D-Merrimack, recognized as a “Water Warrior” for her persistent advocacy against PFAS in Merrimack since her election in 2018. Murphy has introduced five bills in the upcoming House session, focusing on the impacts of PFAS and environmental pollution. One key proposal seeks to hold Saint-Gobain accountable even after the plant closure, aiming to make polluters responsible for the risks posed to the community.
“If they’re willing to put other people and places at risk, they should certainly be willing to clean it up,” Murphy emphasized regarding the proposed legislation.
PFAS, classified as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, are known for their persistence in the environment and potential health impacts on humans. Murphy’s bills also include measures to establish commissions addressing PFAS pollution, extend studies on environmentally-triggered chronic illnesses related to PFAS, and prioritize pediatric cancer in the state health improvement plan.
Another bill, spearheaded by Representative Wendy Thomas, D-Merrimack, focuses on holding facilities liable for the costs of blood testing for individuals impacted by PFAS pollution. Thomas, diagnosed with breast cancer and high PFAS levels, emphasizes the importance of polluters covering the expenses related to health assessments.
Despite concerns and skepticism about Saint-Gobain’s commitment to full site cleanup, the bills signal a collective effort by New Hampshire lawmakers to tackle PFAS-related issues comprehensively. Representative Thomas is set to present additional bills in the 2024 House session, including proposals for public benefit assessments and community impact evaluations.
In response to these legislative initiatives, a spokesperson for Saint-Gobain reiterated the company’s commitment to closure and decommissioning by the end of 2024. The spokesperson emphasized ongoing updates to the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services (NHDES) on progress and compliance with applicable laws and regulations.
As these critical bills await discussion on the House floor in early January, they underscore the determination of New Hampshire lawmakers to address PFAS concerns and safeguard their communities.