Toxics Action Center
Toxics Action Center

Steps Forward for Clean Drinking Water in N.H., Vt. and Mass.

Laurene Allen of Merrimack, N.H., shows a map of where they have knocked on doors to inform neighbors about contaminated drinking water.

It’s clear that no one should have to worry that the water coming out of their tap is unsafe to drink. Unfortunately, for communities in Merrimack, N.H., as well as many other communities across New England and elsewhere, families are learning that their drinking water is polluted with a toxic chemical they had never heard of before—PFAS.

Companies manufacturing these chemicals, including DuPont, kept quiet about known health impacts for decades. They also lobbied for and won loopholes in our federal safe drinking water law leaving little requirement to test for these chemicals or clean them up. Now, we know this chemical—found in products like Teflon pans, stain-resistant fabrics and the non-stick lining of popcorn bags—is linked to kidney disorders, cancer and more.

Laurene Allen from Merrimack, N.H., has several autoimmune diseases in her family and knows many neighbors whose health has been impacted by diseases associated with high levels of PFAS exposure. She has been fighting to hold the polluter Saint Gobain responsible for the contamination from its manufacturing plant, but so far, demands for blood testing and health monitoring for impacted families have fallen on deaf ears. So Laurene decided to talk with neighbors to learn first-hand how their health might have been impacted, and to use those results to advocate for the health of her family and community.

With our help, Merrimack Citizens for Clean Water drafted a health survey and went door to door collecting over 500 surveys from neighbors. The results were astounding: Almost 400 of those individuals had diagnoses associated with high levels of PFAS contamination and more than half had multiple diagnoses. Now, the group is using these results to not only build awareness about the contamination, but also to convince the state to launch an official health study and hold Saint Gobain accountable.

We are continuing to work with not only Merrimack Citizens for Clean Water, but with more than a dozen other PFAS-contaminated communities in New England and dozens more from across the country. We know that by building strong neighborhood groups, organizing and getting community voices heard, we can win. With your support, we’ve won significant victories this year, like securing clean drinking water for hundreds of families in Bennington, Vt., and turning off polluting wells in Westfield, Mass.

But there is still a long way to go. We recently launched a national network of communities facing PFAS water contamination with plans to grow our power over the next year.

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