October 20, 2017

Senators Hassan, Shaheen Question EPA on Timing of Determination that Coakley Landfill Does Not Pose “Unacceptable Human Health Risk”

WASHINGTON – Yesterday, Senators Maggie Hassan (D-NH) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) sent a letter to Acting Administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) New England Region, Deborah Szaro, questioning the timing of the EPA’s disclosure that it had determined the Coakley Landfill does not pose an “unacceptable human health risk.”

The EPA failed to present this information to the New Hampshire Governor’s Task Force on the Seacoast Cancer Cluster until the final meeting of the Task Force, at which point the EPA included it as an addendum to the Five-Year Review Report. In their letter to Acting Administrator Szaro, Senators Hassan and Shaheen question why such information was not shared with members of the Task Force prior to their final meeting.

“While the addendum was issued on September 28, 2017, we understand that EPA’s determination that ‘there is not a current unacceptable human health risk at the Site’ was not conveyed to members of the task force prior to the final meeting,” the Senators wrote. “By doing so, EPA did not allow members sufficient opportunity to evaluate the information included in the addendum before the task force concluded its work.”

“The people of the Seacoast remain understandably disturbed about potential health and environmental risks associated with these emerging contaminants, and there is still much work for stakeholders at all levels of government to do together to address those concerns … As the New Hampshire Legislature’s Commission on the Seacoast Cancer Cluster Investigation begins its work to build on the task force’s efforts, we hope the EPA will continue to engage in this important process and to present information in a timely and transparent manner,” the Senators continued.

Then-Governor Hassan established the New Hampshire Governor’s Task Force on the Seacoast Cancer Cluster in 2016. Senator Hassan cosponsored legislation requiring the EPA to set federal safety guidelines for perfluorinated compounds and to identify a threshold of expected risk to health for PFCs within two years.

Senator Shaheen introduced bipartisan legislation to proactively empower the EPA to better respond to potential water contamination crises from emerging contaminants like PFCs. Additionally, Senator Shaheen successfully included a critical measure in the National Defense Authorization Act, the annual bill that sets defense policies for the fiscal year, to conduct a study to understand the health impacts and effects of exposure to PFC contamination.

See below or click here for the full text of the letter:

Dear Acting Administrator Szaro,

We write today regarding the addendum to the fourth Five-Year Review report for the Coakley Landfill Superfund Site issued by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). We have heard from our constituents who are concerned about the timing and manner in which this addendum was presented to the public. As we continue our efforts to ensure that Granite Staters have access to safe, clean drinking water and to address public health concerns caused by emerging contaminants such as perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS), we urge you to appropriately engage with our offices and the people of New Hampshire. 

The New Hampshire Governor's Task Force on The Seacoast Cancer Cluster Investigation was established more than a year ago to investigate and respond to public health and environmental concerns regarding the cancer cluster and contamination in the region. As a member of this task force, EPA has been an important partner and provided significant information that has shaped the policy recommendations from this organization.

During the final meeting of the task force on October 4, 2017, the EPA presented the addendum to the fourth Five-Year Review report for the Coakley Landfill Superfund Site. We are concerned that presenting critical information in such a manner has led to confusion among the task force and the general public. While the addendum was issued on September 28, 2017, we understand that EPA’s determination that “there is not a current unacceptable human health risk at the Site” was not conveyed to members of the task force prior to the final meeting.  By doing so, EPA did not allow members sufficient opportunity to evaluate the information included in the addendum before the task force concluded its work.

The people of the Seacoast remain understandably disturbed about potential health and environmental risks associated with these emerging contaminants, and there is still much work for stakeholders at all levels of government to do together to address those concerns. We appreciate EPA’s ongoing efforts to make progress on this serious issue, including the agency’s request that the Coakley Landfill Group (CLG) post signs to alert the public in areas around Coakley Landfill that contaminants have been detected in the surface waters and directing CLG to conduct fish-tissue sampling. As the New Hampshire Legislature’s Commission on the Seacoast Cancer Cluster Investigation begins its work to build on the task force’s efforts, we hope the EPA will continue to engage in this important process and to present information in a timely and transparent manner.

We thank you for your ongoing efforts to combat water contamination in New Hampshire and look forward to continuing to work together to address the public health and environmental concerns of our constituents.

Sincerely,

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