Federal officials say they have linked three contaminated water wells in Greenland, New Hampshire, to the Seacoast’s Coakley Landfill Superfund site.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says it now knows that the landfill has impacted three nearby homes with well water that are above state limits on two harmful chemicals—PFOA, which is a common kind of PFAS, and 1,4 dioxane.
The agency says it will continue testing area water supplies for chemicals indefinitely. The EPA has already found some levels of PFAS in all of the two dozen nearby wells they've sampled. They say they still can't be sure it's all from Coakley, though neighbors remain skeptical.
The state of New Hampshire has since imposed new regulations on some kinds of PFAS, but they’re not subject to any federal laws. Still, they’re an increasing concern at Superfund sites around the country, New Hampshire Public Radio reports.
State Sen. Tom Sherman has also urged the EPA to list PFAS as a hazardous substance to hasten those cleanups and get more funding from polluters. It's one of the actions that the agency has considered under President Trump and, now President Biden, along with setting drinking water limits on PFAS.
Meanwhile, the EPA has been analyzing the groundwater deep beneath Coakley by drilling bedrock wells, hoping to better understand how contamination is spreading. That project is set to wrap up this year.
Officials have also been piloting ways to clean up PFAS in surface water around the landfill, in response to a 2019 mandate from Gov. Chris Sununu and the state legislature.
Contractor Chris Buckman told NHPR they had mixed results from an attempt to remove contamination from nearby Berry’s Brook with “pillows and blankets” full of an “absorbent media” similar to granular activated carbon, a common filtration method for PFAS.
“It’s important to mention that the widespread treatment of surface water for PFAS isn’t common,” Buckman said. “This is sort of – I’m not going to use the term ‘groundbreaking,’ but it’s still the early stages industry-wide of evaluating treatment of surface water.”
The state and EPA have also confirmed that multiple layers of Coakley’s protective cap contain PFAS, making it a potential contributor to contaminated stormwater runoff. They’re waiting for a major rainstorm to get more data on that, after delays due to last year’s drought.
This year, the EPA will also conduct a routine five-year review of the Coakley site -- the fifth such report, conducted at all post-cleanup Superfund sites, since the cap was installed.