Saint-Gobain is in receipt of the complaint from the Attorney General’s office and is disappointed in the action taken by the NH Department of Justice in this matter. We are also in receipt of the filing from the Town of Merrimack which falsely attempts to paint Saint-Gobain and DES as not taking proper care to remediate this issue. It is disappointing to see the Town take this route when the critical path item to installing an RTO – one of their core issues – is that they have yet to grant us a permit to pour the concrete pad upon which the RTO will sit. More on this in the following paragraph.
Regarding the complaint from the Attorney General’s office, starting with the filing of our variance request in June 2020, Saint-Gobain has always been clear with the NHDES that the one-year deadline to construct the Regenerative Thermal Oxidizer (RTO) was aggressive given this is a first-of-its-kind project. Therefore, we were surprised by the DES’s action to very quickly refer this permit compliance matter to the Attorney General’s office when these are normally handled by the agency. While the company continues to move the RTO project forward as rapidly as possible, we stayed in regular contact with all appropriate parties on the complexity of the design and build of the RTO, including the significant risk of delays we were facing due to several factors including COVID-19. Currently, the Town’s approval of our concrete permit is the critical path issue preventing this project from moving forward. Saint-Gobain has been waiting for nearly 60 days for this permit, which the Town’s website says should take 8-14 days and we have responded to several requests from the Town for additional information in connection with this permit.
Critically, even without the RTO running, Saint-Gobain is still on track to not exceed emissions limits for the year. The regulators are aware of this, which is also why the decision from the Attorney General’s office to then move forward and file a complaint at this juncture is surprising.
We are most concerned about the message the state’s collective actions send to our 200 employees in this facility, which provides cutting-edge and critical products for the military, as well as for products in the aerospace, automotive, and telecommunications industries to name a few. These essential workers have continued to work to produce top-quality products during a global pandemic and the most extreme actions outlined in the complaint are a disservice to the incredible work they do every day.
Finally, the complaint does not take into account the proactive work Saint-Gobain has undertaken in addressing the presence of PFOA in Merrimack, much of which has been lost in the public narrative. After self-reporting, the company has taken numerous steps to reinforce our commitment to the community and our desire to address the current situation:
- We created the Community Advisory Council to help keep residents of the Merrimack community informed on our actions.
- Since proactively reporting to the state, we have distributed more than 300,000 gallons of bottled water to residents and are continuing to do so for residents whose water tests above the state’s MCLs
- In 2018 we committed millions to the design, construction, installation, and maintenance of a Granular Activated Carbon filtration system on Merrimack Valley Water District (MVD) wells 4 and 5, both of which are operational. All remaining MVD wells are located several miles from our Merrimack facility and outside the outer boundary established in our consent decree with the state.
- We have installed approximately 15 miles of water lines, connecting 540 homes to municipal water between Merrimack, Litchfield and Bedford at a cost of tens of millions.
- In 2018 we began work to install a pretreatment system, which filters the process water from the facility and now leaves the Merrimack plant cleaner than it comes in.
- Funded point-of-use treatment systems for more than 50 properties. POUs effectively filter water to non-detect levels of PFOA.
- Installed point-of-entry treatment systems – or POETs – to four additional properties in Bedford, where it’s not feasible to extend the municipal water lines. POETs effectively filter water to non-detect levels of PFOA.
- Completed a total of 19,500 model runs, 300 air-model simulations and approximately 360 hours of computation time targeted at understanding the spread of PFAS to the areas we are addressing under our Consent Decree. We have submitted over 27 work plans and reports have been submitted for a total of nearly 36,000 pages supporting this data. This is important because with several known contributors to PFAS across Merrimack, acknowledged by the state in a 2018 consent decree, being able to understand all of the sources of PFAS in Merrimack and surrounding areas is key to addressing the issue.
- Through the work described above, residents whose private wells tested above the EPA Advisory Limit of 70 PPT, have been either connected to public water or provided with a water treatment system.
- In response to lower MCLs the state of New Hampshire adopted in summer 2020 (12 PPT for PFOA and 15 PPT for PFOS), we are voluntarily sampling additional wells and continuing work to ensure that residents whose water exceeds these limits have access to potable drinking water, without a formal agreement in place with the state for this project.