LONDONDERRY — Town councilors got a recent update from the state about the status of some water woes in the community.

At a meeting on Jan. 4, councilors heard from state officials about the progress being done with water testing on wells in town where there are contaminant possibilities and concerns.

Brandon Kernen, an administrator with the Drinking Water/Groundwater Bureau with New Hampshire's Department of Environmental Services, or DES, called into the meeting with updates.  

Town Manager Kevin Smith said he invited the state official to participate in the meeting, to give an idea of what the state is seeing in Londonderry through the well testing. 

Kernen said a lot of work is going on in Londonderry with the sampling of wells.

Water has taken up many discussion in town in past years.

Earlier meetings drew crowds of residents speaking out about their water concerns and potential dangers found in several areas of town.  

DES officials also joined in those earlier discussion, giving updates to residents about the water issues, with some identified as part of the Saint-Gobain investigation.

Saint-Gobain, a facility in Merrimack, has been targeted for several years as a facility where certain industrially-produced compounds, including PFOA, or perfluorooctanoic acid, and PFAS, or polyfluoroalkyl substances, are causing contamination in nearby communities, now including portions of Londonderry nearest to the Litchfield town line.

That company was made to address water concerns in certain areas, with hundreds of wells affected.

In 2019, Londonderry released a water study that gave information on various testing results in a surveyed number of private wells.

Levels of various contaminants were detected, with 32 wells in the study.

The PFOA/PFAS compounds are found in many things, state officials said, including non-stick cookware and Gortex clothing, and even pizza boxes. PFAS are also found in food packaging materials and even in the foam used for fighting fires.

It's not just what’s coming from the Saint-Gobain area that has Londonderry residents concerned. Natural occurring elements like radon or arsenic can also cause a well to be less than healthy.

Add in old landfill sites, auto storage yards, gas stations and even farm and apple orchards and soil contamination can be detected.

Kernen said testing has a backlog, due to the list of testing sights growing if contaminants are discovered, and then abutters within 500 feet of that well needing to be notified.

"We are sampling now 50 wells a week," Kernen said, adding the state hopes to increase that number to 100 per week in the next month. 

Kernen said the pandemic hasn't helped the process.

Town Council Chairman John Farrell noted he is "underwhelmed" by the state's timeline plan for solving some water concerns.

"This has gone on way too long," Farrell said. "This is the overall feeling we've had for months. This should have moved much faster."

Farrell added the town needs to me more proactive.

Kernen said he understood the town's feelings.

"I understand the feeling of a sense of urgency," he said. "Our focus is getting back on this obviously."

Kernen said the state has many resources listed online for residents who need information on treating water, from less costly home filtration systems in the home to more expensive systems.

Resident Ray Breslin has been outspoken at many meetings when it comes to Londonderry's water.

"This has been going on for a long time," he said. "It's the town's responsibility to take care of its people."

Water discussions between town and the state will continue. 

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