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New Hampshire Judge Suspends State’s New PFAS Restrictions

Nov. 27, 2019, 2:09 AM

A New Hampshire judge ordered that the state suspend at year’s end enforcement of its new rules tightening allowable limits on fluorinated “forever” chemicals, as the 3M company had asked.

On Oct. 1, New Hampshire dropped its allowable limit of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) from 70 parts per trillion to 18 parts per trillion in drinking water and groundwater.

The 3M company, a manufacturer of PFAS compounds, filed suit and sought an injunction to halt the enforcement of the lower limits. A local farmer, the town of Plymouth, and a sludge company joined 3M in the suit, filed in New Hampshire Superior Court.

Judge Robert McNamara granted the injunction Nov. 26.

Injunction Delayed Until Dec. 31

The Department of Environmental Services has not conducted an adequate cost-benefit analysis of the rule, as required under New Hampshire law, McNamara said.

McNamara ordered that the injunction not take effect until Dec. 31, however, so that either party can appeal or seek review in the New Hampshire Supreme Court.

PFAS chemicals, which have been used for decades in nonstick coatings and firefighting foam, persist in the environment and can accumulate in the body. PFAS chemicals have been detected in water systems nationwide and have been linked to thyroid issues and cancer.

Well Water

High levels of PFAS were detected in private drinking water wells in New Hampshire and Vermont in 2016 and traced to a former manufacturing plant in Bennington, Vt., now owned by Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics. The state then embarked on widespread testing of PFAS and toughened its rules.

New Hampshire is one of a number of states, including Massachusetts, New York, and Vermont that have lowered the allowable limit of PFAS or are considering it.

The lawsuit, first reported by New Hampshire Public Radio, is Plymouth Village Water & Sewer v. Robert R. Scott, Commissioner of the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services, N.H. Super. Ct., No. 217-2019-CV-00650, 11/26/19

To contact the reporter on this story: Adrianne Appel in Boston at aappel@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Gregory Henderson at ghenderson@bloombergenvironment.com