CONCORD, N.H. >> The state has found a potentially cancer-causing chemical in Merrimack's former landfill but cannot say whether it has contaminated any nearby private wells.
The announcement Tuesday by the state's Department of Environmental Services is the latest evidence that the chemical perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA, is more widespread in New Hampshire than initially thought. The chemical, used in Teflon coatings, was first found in more than 50 wells in towns surrounding the Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics facility in Merrimack and has since been found in 11 private wells near a former manufacturing site operated by Textiles Coated International in Amherst.
The revelations about Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics, based in Solon, Ohio, also prompted the state environmental services department to start looking across New Hampshire for facilities that have used PFOA. Earlier this month, it released a list of more than 40 companies that were possible past or present users of PFOA. The list includes two Textiles Coated International sites.
Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics CEO Tom Kinisky has said the source of the chemical contamination can't be definitively linked to the company because the chemical was so pervasive in recent decades, used in Gore-Tex jackets, ski wax and the linings of pizza boxes and microwave popcorn bags. Textiles Coated International, based in Manchester, has said it is "fully committed to health, safety, and environmental compliance" and will work with the state "to fix the problem."
In the latest contamination, state officials said, the Environmental Protection Agency tested monitor wells adjacent to the Merrimack landfill and found PFOA levels more than five times limits recommended by the EPA. The 25-acre site, which includes two landfills, was operated by the city from the 1970s to 2003 and received waste from households and businesses in Merrimack.
State officials said it was unclear how the chemical got into the landfill and who is responsible for the contamination.
The state is testing residential wells used for drinking water near the landfill to determine if any has been contaminated.
PFOA also has been found near Saint-Gobain's now-shuttered plant in North Bennington, Vermont, and in the water supply in Hoosick Falls, New York, where the company has two plants. More than 100 private water wells in and around the North Bennington area have been found with levels of PFOA as high as nearly 3,000 parts per trillion, way beyond the state's advisory level of 20 parts per trillion in drinking water.
Saint-Gobain has said its focus is on providing communities with clean water.