Many New Hampshire residents get their tap water from private well sources, but there are still around 2,400 public water systems throughout the state. On August 20, 2018, it was announced that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had awarded a Clean Water State Revolving Fund Capitalization Grant of $16 million to the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services (NHDES). That’s nearly $3 million more than what was awarded to the state last year.
Efforts to secure the grant were spearheaded by U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Maggie Hassan (D-NH) and Congresswomen Carol Shea-Porter (NH-01) and Annie Kuster (NH-02). Senator Shaheen said of the grant victory:
Families deserve safe and clean drinking water, and this grant will provide significant resources to help communities across our state protect water quality.
In the past couple of years, New Hampshire has seen a worrisome, growing issue of contaminated water sources. NHDES was also awarded $162,000 in addition to the $16 million to further fund New Hampshire’s Water Quality Management Planning program, which aims to clean up those contaminations. Congresswoman Shea-Porter was especially pleased with the funding for cleaning up contamination, saying:
“No one should have to worry that their water is contaminated or their children are being harmed by contaminated water… Clean drinking water is essential for public health, and this federal grant demonstrates how federal, state, and local governments can work together to improve wastewater treatment, protect our environment, and improve drinking water quality.”
Fingers have pointed at various possible causes for the water contamination, including a Textiles Coated International (TCI) plant in towns like Amherst, New Hampshire, where high levels of perfluorochemicals (PFOA) were found to contaminate even private wells in the area back in 2016. The plant hadn’t operated in the area since 2006, but they were supposedly well known for frequent use of PFOAs in the past. A more in-depth talk about the PFOA problem in Southern NH and other water contamination issues in the state can be found in an August 2017 New Hampshire Public Radio podcast here.
Additionally, studies show that the United States’ aging sewer systems spill an estimated 1.26 trillion gallons of untreated sewage each year.
Regardless of the cause of these contaminations, citizens and politicians alike in New Hampshire are eager to protect their drinking water and the clean natural beauty their state is known for. Some of the grant money will go towards preserving wetlands and estuaries that have been impacted by pollution and contamination, giving NH residents hope that their natural water sources aren’t compromised forever.