PORTSMOUTH — U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen has joined the effort to get the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to quickly review the protocol for blood testing for people exposed to contaminated water at the Pease International Tradeport.
Shaheen, D-N.H., noted in her recent letter to the CDC that the state Department of Health and Human Services has developed a testing protocol for people who were exposed to perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS) from the city-owned Haven Well.
“I am requesting that your agency review the protocol expeditiously so the individuals who were exposed to PFOS may receive the testing they have requested,” Shaheen wrote in a letter to Thomas Frieden, the director of the CDC.
Shaheen noted in her letter that the tradeport is the former home of the Pease U.S. Air Force Base, which operated at the same location from 1956 to 1991.
The base has been declared a Superfund site.
Officials from the state Department of Environmental Services — along with the Air Force — believe the PFOS came from firefighting foam used on the runway.
Haven Well is located underneath the main runway. City officials immediately shut down the well when they learned about the test results.
The federal Environmental Protection Agency classifies PFOS as a “contaminant of emerging concern because the risk to human health … may not be known,” according to the federal agency’s website.
Shaheen notes in her letter that the push to get blood tests for people exposed to PFOS came as a result of the efforts of Andrea Amico, a Portsmouth resident and mother of two “who has voiced concerns with water contamination” from the Haven Well.
Amico’s two young children attend a day care at the tradeport and her husband works there.
Amico detailed her concerns about the exposure in Portsmouth Herald stories, and she has created an online petition and Facebook page aimed at making sure the tests were available for anyone who wanted them.
She also believes the Air Force should pay for the tests, because the well’s contamination came from their use of the former Air Force base.
William Hinkle, spokesman for Gov. Maggie Hassan, said Friday the DHHS has submitted its proposed protocol to the CDC.
Hinkle added that so far CDC officials have not told the state how long their review would take.
Amico’s efforts to make the blood testing available has recently gained the support of several city officials, including Mayor Robert Lister, who sent a letter to Gov. Maggie Hassan asking her to provide city officials with a “detailed timeline” about when people exposed to the contaminant can get blood tests.
“It is unacceptable that questions regarding one’s health have been in flux for nearly a year and we seek to offer our citizens the resources and answers they deserve,” Lister stated in a letter he wrote to Hassan about the well contamination at Pease International Tradeport.
Hassan responded to the mayor’s letter last week, saying she “recognizes the concerns that you and many other Portsmouth residents have communicated about the issue.”
“This is why I have urged the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to approve as quickly as possible the testing protocols developed by the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services,” Hassan wrote.
The state has not tested the Haven well at Pease since it was shut down last year, but when the Air Force tested it in April 2014, it found levels of perfluorooctane sulfonic acid 10 times higher than the EPA’s Provisional Health Advisory (PHA), according to Scott E. Hilton, project manager for the state Department of Environmental Services’ Pease Superfund site.