The Hippo


Jul 23, 2019








Water lines
Two companies figuring out funding for contamination

By Ryan Lessard

 Textiles Coated International, currently based in Manchester, might get a state loan to fund its work on designing and installing new public water lines to homes affected by groundwater contamination from its old plant in Amherst. 

Financing for TCI
Jim Martin at the Department of Environmental Services said TCI, which had not returned calls by press time, is a “perfectly healthy” company, but when it tried to ask for loans from traditional lenders, the lenders only OK’d business expansion projects.
“But they were unsuccessful in securing financing to do a remediation project for water contamination,” Martin said.
So TCI turned to the state. If the plan is approved, Martin said, this will be the first time the state has dipped into the clean water trust fund, which was established last year from an MTBE contamination settlement. Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court ordered ExxonMobil to pay the state $236 million plus interest for that contamination case. MTBE is a gasoline additive that has since been banned for that use in the U.S. after numerous cases of groundwater contamination from leaky underground fuel tanks.
So far, the Senate has passed a bill funding water infrastructure projects with an amendment proposed by Senate President Chuck Morse that would allocate an additional $5 million from the state’s drinking and groundwater trust fund to DES to loan to TCI.
Martin said if the measure passes, TCI will use the money to finance new water lines from Pennichuck Corp. to 100 households in Amherst, about 24 of which were tested to have well water with the perfluorochemical PFOA above the state standard. TCI will repay the loan to the state with interest in a model similar to the revolving loans the state gives to municipalities for drinking and wastewater infrastructure projects, Martin said.
The language of the amendment says DES is authorized to lend up to the $5 million amount to “any potentially responsible party.”
In a written statement released following the vote on March 30, Morse said the money would be loaned “to companies like Textiles Coated International, Inc. [TCI], who have taken full responsibility for the contamination issues in the groundwater in their communities and who have been working diligently with DES to ensure local residents have access to clean drinking water.”
Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics in Merrimack is doing similar water line work for the same kind of groundwater contamination but has not requested any state funding for it.
“Saint-Gobain is funding the projects and is not borrowing any funds from the State of New Hampshire in connection with this water installation project,” Saint-Gobain spokesperson Dina Pokedoff said.
“At least to date, Saint-Gobain has been able to finance the water line extensions and investigation work in the Merrimack-Litchfield-Bedford-Manchester area on their own. They haven’t requested any assistance,” Martin said.
Martin believes this is in part due to the differences between the two companies. 
“TCI is a New Hampshire company only, and while they do some of the similar things Saint-Gobain ... does, Saint-Gobain is a much larger, diversified international corporation,” Martin said.
TCI hired an engineering firm to produce a second design so Pennichuck will be able to review a couple options when it looks to connect the 100 homes in Amherst, Martin said.
In the meantime, Saint-Gobain has already been well underway with designing and paying for new water line installations in neighborhoods affected by its factory.
Martin said 26 homes in Manchester were already connected to Manchester Water Works before winter, and there are plans for a few homes in Merrimack. Engineers are drawing up designs for 61 homes in Bedford. But the majority of households affected by PFOA from the Saint-Gobain plant are in Litchfield. 
Martin said 100 homes have been connected to Pennichuck water in Litchfield so far, with 300 more expected to get connected this year. In addition, there are about 38 homes for which Saint-Gobain has approved designs.
Not all of the homes getting connected had well water tested above the threshold requiring bottled water or filtration systems, but they’re in the same neighborhood, pulling water from the same aquifer, and their wells could become further contaminated, Martin said. 

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