By GARRY RAYNO, InDepthNH.org
CONCORD — A bill setting drinking water standards for perfluoroalkyl substances was signed into law Thursday by Gov. Chris Sununu as was a bill honoring state citizens for their service.
House Bill 1264 sets the limits for PFAs contamination in drinking water, which the state set several years ago, but has been challenged in court by chemical companies.
Drinking water in the Merrimack area and in several Seacoast communities has been contaminated by PFAs.
The bill also establishes a $50 million fund to clean up contaminated sites with the assumption a lawsuit against the chemical’s manufacturers will eventually reimburse the fund.
The bill also requires insurance companies to cover blood tests for people potentially impacted by PFA contamination and extends the Commission on the Seacoast Cancer Study investigation.
“The right to clean water is an issue that cuts across party lines,” said Sen. Tom Sherman, D-Rye, “particularly for the Seacoast and towns surrounding Merrimack, this legislation is critical for the long term health and safety of New Hampshire residents.”
The chemicals are often used in non-stick surfaces and was used at many manufacturing plants in the country including in New Hampshire.
“All session, we have worked across the aisle to address the concerns we all share for the safety of our drinking water,” said Sen. David Watters, D-Dover. “In HB 1264 becoming law, we are able to provide critical financial support for our municipalities as we work towards long-term remediation efforts.”
One of the co-sponsors of the bill called its signing a great day for the state and the communities impacted by PFA contamination.
“As a retired nurse, public health and environmental advocate, and resident of the town of Merrimack whose drinking water, air, and soil has been ruthlessly contaminated by PFAS; today has been a long-awaited day of hope,” said Rep. Nancy Murphy, D-Merrimack. “Science has shown us that a host of adverse health outcomes are known to be associated with PFAS exposure, and some NH communities have experienced long-term and ongoing exposure to these toxic chemicals that persist in the environment and accumulate in the human body.”
The effects of PFA contamination is what made her run for office, she said, to ensure science dictates policy and New Hampshire people and the environment are protected and prioritized over big industry.
The bill passed the Senate on a 23-1 vote and the House 210-116.
Sununu didn’t put out a news release on this signing, but said at Thursday’s news conference the law will “make sure that drinking water is safe.”
Sununu thanked Republicans Sen. Chuck Morse and Rep. Dick Hinch for “a great job…it does impact individuals.”
Sununu also signed House Bill 1135, which incorporates several bills passed earlier this session honoring Granite Staters as well as recognition for D-Day and substance abuse awareness, adds Holocaust and genocide studies to the definition of an adequate education, and establishes a commission to study genocide education.
Sununu was joined by Kati Preston, a Holocaust survivor who lives in Center Barnstead, when he signed the bill Thursday.
“I honestly think this generation of kids in school today will save the world,” said Kati Preston. “I want to give them the opportunity to hear, to learn – to learn the history of what can happen with prejudice and how far it can be pushed.”
She said she is proud of the state for its action honoring Holocaust.
“Until today, New Hampshire did not require that stories like Kati’s are told, ensuring our children learn from the past and that the atrocities of the Holocaust are not forgotten,” Sununu said. “Kati is a Granite State treasure, and this bill could not have happened if not for her leadership and that of so many other stakeholders.”
Senate Education and Workforce Development Chair Sen. Jay Kahn, D-Keene, said “Only through the study and analysis of our history can we begin to work towards a future free of intolerance, bigotry, antisemitism, and national, ethnic, racial, and religious hatred and discrimination.”
By studying the Holocaust and other forms of genocide, will students understand the power of individual choices in preventing discrimination and genocide, he said.
HB 1135 also names a portion of Route 49 in honor of Specialist Marc P. Decoteau; designates a portion of Route 125 as Officer Stephen Arkell Memorial Highway, declares June 6 as D-Day Remembrance Day, proclaims Aug. 31 as Overdose Awareness Day, and names courtrooms in the 10th circuit district court, and reassigns district and family court cases in Rockingham County.
HB 1135 passed the Senate on 24-0 vote and the House 299-17.
Garry Rayno may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.