New Englanders know that our part of the country is special. New England boasts vibrant communities, many with histories dating to before the American Revolution. Our environment is also unique and wonderful. The Environmental Protection Agency is holding its first-ever Community Engagement event on per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances in Exeter, New Hampshire.

PFAS is a group of man-made chemicals that have been widely used in everyday products around the globe since the 1940s. But PFAS compounds also can enter the environment, raising concerns about the potential environmental and health risks. PFAS have been detected in groundwater in some New England communities.

At the PFAS National Leadership Summit held in Washington, D.C., last month, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt announced four concrete actions the agency will take to tackle this issue:

EPA will initiate steps to evaluate the need for a “maximum contaminant level” for PFOA and PFOS, which are the two most common PFAS chemicals. We will convene our federal partners and examine everything we know about PFOA and PFOS in drinking water.

EPA is beginning the necessary steps to propose designating PFOA and PFOS as “hazardous substances” through one of the available statutory mechanisms, including potentially CERCLA Section 102.

EPA is developing groundwater cleanup recommendations for PFOA and PFOS at contaminated sites and will complete this task by fall of this year.

EPA is taking action in close collaboration with our federal and state partners to develop toxicity values for GenX and PFBS (two PFAS-related chemicals) by this summer.

Now EPA is looking for more input while crafting a national management plan. This plan will provide information and solutions for addressing PFAS in our communities. This meeting in Exeter on June 25 and 26 will have a real impact because we will be listening to you – the public – and using your input to help inform our path forward on this issue. Using input from the National Summit, public docket and community engagements, EPA plans to release the management plan by the end of the year.

We are listening to the public’s concerns and bringing key stakeholders together to improve our understanding of these chemicals. EPA drinking water experts, research scientists and regional officials will attend and speak at this event to ensure the public understands what we know and what we’re doing.

Our continued work with states and communities will ensure that, from the federal to the local level, we can quickly respond to and address the concerns shared by New England citizens on PFAS. We invite everyone to attend the sessions at Exeter High School, 1 Blue Hawk Drive, on June 25 and 26. To register to attend and/or speak, visit epa.gov/pfas/pfas-community-engagement-exeter-nh.

Alexandra Dunn

administrator, Environmental Protection Agency Region 1

Boston