Pappas gets up to speed on PFAS contamination

PORTSMOUTH -- When Congressman Chris Pappas, D-NH, met with four women working hard to address PFAS contamination in the Seacoast and across the country, he promised to what he could do help in their fight.

Pappas met with Andrea Amico and Alayna Davis, co-founders of Testing for Pease, former state representative Mindi Messmer and Lindsey Carmichael of the New Hampshire Safe Water Alliance at Popovers in Portsmouth.

Pappas recently signed on to a new bipartisan task force on PFAS, formed in the House by Reps. Dan Kildee, D-Mich, and Brian Fitzpatrick, R-PA, to address the drinking water contamination attributed to toxic flourinated chemicals known as PFAS. With the federal government shutdown there has not been any real action yet from the task force, but Pappas said he hopes that changes soon and he pledged to work with the women.

“We want to help, to raise your voices and make sure you are heard,” said Pappas. “I want to support policy at the federal level that can help change the way we look at this contamination, and find the legislative paths that can assist.”

The Testing for Pease group has been working with ATSDR (Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry) to research the contamination. A meeting at Pease, scheduled for Feb. 7 has been postponed, possibly due to the government shutdown, said the group members.

On Friday, a deal had been reached to reopen the government for three weeks while the Democrats and Republicans negotiated a possible settlement to keep it open.

PFAS are man-made chemicals that were used in a number of ways, including non-stick cookware, water repellant clothing, carpets and firefighting foam. The testing for Pease group said their PFAS contamination stems from firefighting foam. The issue, whatever the cause, is nationwide, even global and Amico said they are working to mobilize and work with like-minded groups across the country to bring more pressure to the federal and state governments and get definitive action on the problem.

“It has been five years since we formed our group,” Amico told Pappas. “We want to bring you up to speed on where we are and how you can help.”

Amico spoke about how she became involved. Her husband was working in a company located on the Pease Tradeport, and her two young children attended day care there also.

“When I heard about the contamination of, and the closing of a well at Pease, I became concerned for my family,” said Amico. “There were hundreds of children in day care. The state did testing and our blood levels came back elevated for the chemicals. We don’t know what that means for our children down the road. All we can do is monitor their health. The chemicals stay in your body a long, long time. Our kids are healthy now, but who knows what is down the road. We need to find out.”

The women told Pappas they want to see PFAS classified as a family of compounds, which should make testing and research move quicker. They also want to see federal funding allocated for research and to help families impacted by PFAS, with a focus on the most sensitive populations, babies, children and nursing mothers.

Pappas asked if there might be families impacted who are not aware of the risks. Absolutely, said the women.

“Most physicians are not educated about PFAS,” said Davis. “My son was exposed. I have to bring specific guidelines to our doctor, have to ask him to test for this.”

Messmer said the Seacoast has a cancer cluster, primarily among children. She said there are 661 military bases across the country, and that doesn’t even take into account industrial manufacturers where PFAS contamination exists.

Carmichael said the estimates are that at least one-third of the nation’s water supplies are impacted by PFAS.

Mindi Messmer