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Judge Says N.H. Must Halt PFAS Limits Dec. 31, Pending Supreme Court Appeal

In this June 17, 2019 photo in Washington, a label states that these pans do not contain PFAS. (Ellen Knickmeyer/AP)
In this June 17, 2019 photo in Washington, a label states that these pans do not contain PFAS. (Ellen Knickmeyer/AP)
This article is more than 2 years old.

A judge has ruled that New Hampshire will have to stop enforcing its strict new limits on PFAS chemicals at the end of the year – but the case is far from settled.

Merrimack Superior Court judge Richard McNamara’s ruling, which was provided to New Hampshire Public Radio, grants an injunction requested by the major chemical company and PFAS-maker 3M, as well as local stakeholders.

But it won’t take effect until Dec. 31, the judge writes, “so that either party may seek immediate review of this decision in the New Hampshire Supreme Court.”

“[T]he legal issues raised by Plaintiffs’ challenge are complex, the importance of public health is paramount and the expense imposed by the proposed rule is significant,” McNamara writes in staying the injunction.

The rules in question require public water systems to test and treat for low levels of PFAS chemicals, which have been linked to health problems.

3M and its partners argue the state didn’t use proper science or public input in making the rules. The state counters that halting the rules will perpetuate unsafe PFAS levels in drinking water.

The ruling means public water systems will still have to submit their first round of quarterly PFAS test results to state regulators by the end of the year. Any enforcement after that – including the need for treatment systems that could cost millions of dollars – will hinge on how the court case proceeds.

A spokesman for the state Department of Environmental Services declined to comment except to say that DES is reviewing McNamara’s ruling with the state Department of Justice.

A request for comment to 3M was not immediately returned.

This story is a production of the New England News Collaborative. It was originally published by New Hampshire Public Radio on Nov. 26.