President Biden Met with State Rep. and Discussed PFAS Pollution Accountability

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Rep. Wendy Thomas and her family pose for a photo with Joe Biden at former Governor John Lynch's event in 2006. Biden later signed the photo at another event in 2012. Photo courtesy of Wendy Thomas


During President Biden’s visit to New Hampshire on Monday, he set aside time to meet with 20 legislators to update them on his plans and to hear about their concerns for the state.

Rep. Wendy Thomas, D-Merrimack, was one of those legislators. Although she only had a brief moment to chat with the President, she delivered her House Resolution and discussed ongoing concerns over PFAS pollution accountability in New Hampshire.

“I feel like we’re finally making progress and being heard,” Thomas said.

Since PFAS, or forever chemicals, were discovered in the drinking water in Merrimack, Thomas has been known as a “Water Warrior,” advocating for accountability, cleanup, and awareness about these chemicals and the health threat they pose.

Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics is the polluter Thomas wants to see held to account after contaminating her drinking water and others’ in and around Merrimack. While the company entered a consent decree with the Department of Environmental Services in 2018 to work on remediation, water filtration, and supplying clean water to affected homes, Thomas has largely felt that the necessary level of accountability was never met.

She decided to write House Resolution 28, which “urges for the compensation for injuries from PFAS and for the closure and cleaning of sites affected by PFAS,” namely the Saint-Gobain facility in Merrimack. In the bill, Saint-Gobain is specifically named on several occasions, with claims that “Saint-Gobain knowingly minimized the environmental impact and denied the ongoing harm” and “has proven to be a clear and present danger to the residents who live near any of their plastics’ facilities.”

The resolution, which is essentially a letter to other governing bodies and not a formal bill, was addressed to Biden, the New Hampshire Congressional delegation, and President Emmanuel Macron of France, where Saint-Gobain is based.

On Tuesday, Thomas’ resolution was hand-delivered to the President.

“The town of Merrimack is now on President Biden’s radar,” Thomas said.

During their conversation, Thomas said she felt like Biden heard her concerns about PFAS and Saint-Gobain. She had told him that she was diagnosed with breast cancer likely related to her PFAS exposure—after that, she said, he took both of her hands as she continued to speak.

“He was signaling human support for me,” Thomas said. “He’s one of the most empathetic people I’ve ever met.” It wasn’t her first time meeting Biden, either. She had met him in 2006 and in 2012 during visits to New Hampshire, which she said he remembered when speaking to her.

Saint-Gobain emailed a response: “Since our discovery of PFOA in water samples from our facility in Merrimack, Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics Corporation (SGPPL) has been transparent in its reporting, engaged with the proper government agencies, and taken action to mitigate the impact of PFOA on the area in and around Merrimack.” The company’s full response is at the end of this story.

According to Thomas, Biden said PFAS was a big priority for him. Once she mentioned the chemicals, she said, he turned to an aide to take down Thomas’ contact information.

“I’ve been holding this big breath for the last eight years since we started advocating for PFAS,” Thomas said. “It just felt like I could exhale for the first time in eight years.”

Thomas isn’t sure where the resolution will go from here. It was quickly passed by the New Hampshire House of Representatives in February, indicating bi-partisan support behind Thomas’ calls for accountability; but since it is a resolution and not a law, no actions can be legally mandated by the bill.

Thomas is hoping that after her conversation with Biden, she can forge a stronger connection with Washington, D.C. and look into receiving federal funds or greater support from the EPA in cleaning up the Saint-Gobain site and holding the company responsible.

Getting more EPA support may be difficult, though. Since the Saint-Gobain facility is not a declared Superfund site, like the Coakley Landfill in Rye, there is no EPA oversight and much of the responsibility falls to the DES and Saint-Gobain.

“But it’s still killing us,” Thomas said. “These are still deadly chemicals that do not belong in our environment.”

Thomas said that her brief interaction with Biden was enough to give her hope that action will be taken regarding PFAS and Saint-Gobain.

“The war is not over, but we have certainly won this battle,” Thomas said.

A representative of Saint-Gobain North America submitted the following statement in response to the House Resolution and Thomas’ meeting with Biden. It outlines the work they have done since the discovery of PFAS pollution from their Merrimack manufacturing plant, which is set to close by the end of 2024:


Since our discovery of PFOA in water samples from our facility in Merrimack, Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics Corporation (SGPPL) has been transparent in its reporting, engaged with the proper government agencies, and taken action to mitigate the impact of PFOA on the area in and around Merrimack. Our actions have been clear, and our intent is to continue to work with the government and other stakeholders as long as needed, even after our facility in Merrimack closes this year. 

SGPPL will decommission the Merrimack facility in accordance with applicable federal, state, and local laws. Staff from several NHDES departments visited the facility in late 2023 to discuss the planned decommissioning, and SGPPL committed to providing periodic updates to NHDES staff as the work progresses.

In addition to our closure commitments, SGPPL has made commitments that we are still delivering on, and we have already taken many actions to address the presence of PFOA in area wells.

  • Pre-Consent Decree Work: Before reaching a Consent Decree agreement with the state, SGPPL did significant work to investigate and mitigate the presence of PFAS in the area, collecting over 1,500 samples and completing connections for over 400 homes in Merrimack, Manchester, Litchfield and Bedford. We were able to conduct this work without the benefit of a formal consent agreement being in place because of the relationships and commitments to the community.
  • 2018 Consent Decree: In the 2018 Consent Decree, among other things, SGPPL committed to provide water service connections to nearly 300 additional homes and to take other actions within the Consent Decree area that have led to the additional work discussed below. 
  • Ongoing Residential Well Sampling: In accordance with NHDES-approved sampling plans, SGPPL has collected well water samples from nearly 2,500 properties since the 2018 Consent Decree. An additional 1,400 properties have been offered sampling and have either declined or not responded.
  • Interim Water Deliveries: SGPPL has two contractors (Primo Water North America and Monadnock Mountain Spring Water) delivering water to eligible homes within the consent decree area, enabling property owners to quickly access bottled water if a sample of their well water tests above the state standard. 
  • Additional Permanent Water Solutions: SGPPL finalized a term sheet with NHDES, laying out how the company would provide a permanent alternate water for additional homes in the consent decree area. Under the framework established, a permanent alternate water solution is planned for over 1,400 additional homes, bringing the total number of homes with a permanent alternate water solution to over 2,100. Permanent solutions include waterline extensions to public water, the installation of a new water line, or the installation of a POET system to treat water in the home.  The installation of POET systems is nearly complete, as detailed below, with POETs already installed at approximately 80% of eligible properties. Construction is in progress for one water line extension project, with additional water line projects in various stages of evaluation, design, and contracting. 
  • Installation of Point of Entry Treatment Systems: As part of the agreement with NHDES, SGPPL has offered POETs to over 700 homes in the consent decree area. POETs have already been installed at approximately 80% of eligible properties, which is nearly all the homes that have responded to SGPPLs offer. This work will continue in 2024, with additional outreach planned for properties that have not responded to SGPPL’s offer.
  • POET Rebate Program: Another commitment we made with NHDES was the establishment of a rebate program for homes within the consent decree program that installed a qualifying POET prior to becoming eligible for an SGPPL-provided POET. SGPPL launched the rebate program in July 2023. To date we have received approximately 40 rebate applications. We will continue to accept and consider rebate applications during 2024, paying up to $5,000 for each home with a qualifying POET. In addition, homes with a qualifying POET are eligible to receive future POET maintenance from a SGPPL-contractor.
  • Ani Freedman is a contract reporter with She is a recent graduate from Columbia Journalism School with a passion for environmental, health, and accountability reporting. In her free time, she’s an avid runner and run coach. She can be reached at

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