NH DES contacting other companies for possible PFOA use

Agency says it is ‘aware’ of other manufacturers that have used the chemical

The 1.5-mile radius around the Saint-Gobain Performing Plastics plant in Merrimack is potentially not the only area of the state where varying levels of PFOA may be detected in the water.

The commonplace, far-reaching use of synthetic perfluorooctanoic acid (known as PFOA) and other perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs) in the manufacturing process has led the state Department of Environmental Services to proactively reach out to manufacturers, where additional water samples could be collected.

Through its Air Resources Division and Hazardous Waste Management Bureau, the DES is approaching manufacturers who may have used perfluorinated chemicals to produce non-stick coatings used for wires, fabrics and other materials, to determine if additional sampling is necessary.

“We are aware of other manufacturing companies that did use [PFOA] similar to Saint-Gobain, and we have initiated conversations with them as well,” said Jim Martin, public information officer at DES, who would not release the names of the manufacturers.

“Part of our investigation is we’re looking at all of the potential pathways PFOA may have gotten into the groundwater,” said Martin. “There’s potential for wastewater spills at the facility, getting leaked out from drains, or something like that. We’re also looking very closely at air emissions and what the emissions may have been and how much PFOA may have been included in air emissions.”

PFOA has traditionally been used as a processing aid in the production of fluoropolymer, a durable, lightweight material that can handle exposure to extreme temperatures.

Fluoropolymer has been used in a variety of applications including hoses, aircrafts and automobiles, as well as lining medical equipment, in order to prevent substances from interacting with the equipment.

Polytetrafluoroethylene, or PTFE (branded as Teflon by Chemours, a spinoff of DuPont) is a fluoropolymer used by Saint-Gobain, which manufactures specialty coated fabrics and films for a variety of industrial applications.

New Hampshire manufacturers have not produced PFOA, but traditionally bought it from the eight major manufacturers of PFOA and PFAS (perfluoroalkyl substances) – also known colloquially as PFCs (perfluorinated chemicals).

Editor’s Note: A comprehensive look at the possible use of PFOA by New Hampshire manufacturers will appear in the April 29-May12 issue of NH Business Review.

Categories: Energy and Environment, News