An important bill, HB 737, will pass the Senate floor today which will establish an important commission to bring all stakeholders to the table to address the biggest environmental and water crisis in NH’s history in Merrimack and surrounding towns. The DES admits now that approximately 65 square miles of drinking water aquifer are contaminated by industry.
But, some Republican Senators, in a highly partisan maneuver, are caving to pressure from the Business and Industry Association (BIA), the Municipal Association and New England Biosolids (NEBRA) to highjack HB 737 with a floor amendment that’s counter to public health. The floor amendment would bring the rule-making process to a grinding halt for at least 2 years that was started by SB 309 to ensure that our drinking water is safe from perfluoroalkyl chemicals (PFAS) and that the public health is protected, particularly prenatal health. Incidentally, the biggest members of the BIA are the polluters responsible for much of the PFAS contamination in NH: Saint Gobain of Merrimack and Textile Coatings Inc of Amherst. For far too long, corporate special interests have hamstrung progress on clean water in New Hampshire, and it needs to stop.
The process of determining what is a safe level of these toxins in our water was started when Sen. Dan Feltes and I worked on the issue in 2016. It met significant resistance from the corporate special interests. Even so, we made some progress, but our legislation failed in a committee of conference. Then, the next year, we made a decision to allow a Republican to take the lead on it, since it was Republican-controlled legislature. We gave the legislation to then Republican Sen. Dan Innis, both in the spirit of bipartisanship and in the spirit of getting something done. This was SB 309. It was a good bill, a bipartisan effort that was eventually signed into law in June 2018. Now, as a result, the rulemaking establishing drinking water standards is almost complete, after years of this fight.
Unfortunately, the floor amendment being offered on HB 737 will postpone safe drinking water standards for years to come. It is a very unwise, partisan move for Senate Republicans to take. Make no mistake: a vote for this floor amendment is a vote against bipartisanship, and, most importantly, it is a vote against clean, safe drinking water.
I know that Sen. Dan Feltes will do the right thing. But people should tell your state Senators we are watching, call on them to vote for clean water, and to oppose this floor amendment. Because clean, safe drinking water for our kids, our families and our communities shouldn’t be held back by the corporate special interests.
Mindi Messmer, PG, CG
Former House Rep. District 24