The New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services (NHDES) is engaged in an ongoing investigation into per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in New Hampshire drinking water. New Hampshire and several other northeast states are dealing with several sites where there have been widespread PFAS impacts on drinking water supplies. On May 19, 2016 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued drinking water lifetime health advisories for two PFCs, perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS). After a review of EPA’s information, on May 31, 2016, NHDES filed an emergency rule to establish the health advisories as Ambient Groundwater Quality Standards (AGQS). NHDES set three groundwater standards: 70 parts per trillion (ppt) for PFOA, 70 ppt for PFOS and 70 ppt for PFOA and PFOS combined. After completing the regular rulemaking process, these rules became permanent on October 22, 2016. Since then, the agency has been working to help affected citizens obtain clean drinking water and to determine the extent of the pollution. The following are answers to some Frequently Asked Questions about the issue.

What are PFAS?

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), sometimes referred to as PFCs, are a family of man-made compounds that do not naturally occur in the environment. They have a large number of industrial uses and are found in many commercial products because of their properties to resist heat, oil, grease and water. Once released to the environment, PFCs are persistent and do not biodegrade or breakdown.

How do PFAS get in our environment?

Many PFAS, including perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS), and perfluorohexane sulfonic acid (PFHxS), are commonly found in our environment and do not break down easily. These chemicals can move through soil, get into groundwater, and be carried through air. Because they are stable chemicals and move so easily in the environment, PFASs have been found far away from where they were made or used. DHHS provides guidance to reducing Exposure to PFCs on its website.

Should I get my well tested?

The New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services (NHDES) has been testing private water wells in southern New Hampshire for perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA). The Southern NH Private Well-Testing Request Form helps the department determine who is located within the area of interest and would like their well tested. Once you complete the form, you will receive an email from NHDES that will let you know if you are in an area where we are currently collecting samples.

Should I get my blood tested?

Blood testing for poly- and per-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS, formerly PFCs) is no longer available through the NH Department of Health and Human Services. Given the presence of PFAS in New Hampshire and nationally, measuring a person’s exposure to PFAS and monitoring potential impacts on human health is best served by the relationship between a patient and their healthcare provider. DHHS has and will continue to provide information and recommendations to healthcare providers to help providers and patients make informed decisions about what PFAS exposure might mean for an individual’s health. For more information, please visit the DHHS Blood Testing Program webpage.

What are the EPA health advisories?

To provide Americans, including the most sensitive populations, with a margin of protection from a lifetime of exposure to PFAS from drinking water, EPA has established the health advisory levels at 70 ppt. EPA’s Drinking Water Health Advisories Fact Sheet (PDF) provides more information on the agency’s assessment.