By PAULA TRACY, InDepthNH.org
CONCORD – New Hampshire’s Air Resources Council agreed Monday to take up an appeal by the town of Merrimack against a February air permit for Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics issued by the state Department of Environmental Services.
The factory, located along the Merrimack River and not far from Merrimack’s northern border with the town of Bedford, emits chemicals into the atmosphere that enter the groundwater.
Of concern is something known as PFOAs or PFS, perfluorinated chemicals, which are toxic and emitted from the factory.
A copy of Saint-Gobain’s request for the permit, filed last March, is here: https://www4.des.state.nh.us/OneStopPub/Air/330110016518-0227TypeApplication.pdf, which seeks to build equipment to prevent emissions into the atmosphere.
At its first remote meeting on Zoom, the state Air Resources Council voted 5-0 Monday to accept the 100-page appeal, which was filed by the town on March 24.
Council Chairman Robert Duval said the appeal will likely be heard in about three months.
The town of Merrimack claims the Department of Environmental Services Feb. 11, 2020, temporary permit is not sufficiently protective of the town.
The 100-page brief, filed on behalf of Town Manager Eileen Cabanel, argues that the permit does not apply the best available control technology for the company’s perfluorinated compounds and emissions and continues to impact groundwater quality standards, resulting in deposition of PFCs in the ground.
The first question was that of standing and whether Merrimack, as a town, was dealing with the impact of the decision more than the typical public.
Councilor David Collins said he supported acceptance of the appeal after Duval said he believes the town met its burden.
Duval noted that because of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has killed at least 23 and sickened close to 1,000 New Hampshire residents, that these are “extraordinarily difficult times,” but that he hoped the appeal could be heard in person.
Air Quality Up
On one positive note, Duval said, air quality in the Northeast United States is now the best it has been in at least five years.
Stay-at-home orders and the resulting lack of traffic and commerce during this time will have interesting data to compare going forward, he observed.