Mass. lawmakers call on EPA changes to toxic runoff in Merrimack River

Mass. lawmakers call on EPA changes to toxic runoff in Merrimack River

Over the last 50 years, the Merrimack River has made a tremendous comeback.  Areas that were once overwhelmed with industrial pollution and human waste are now flourishing again.

BOSTON — Following reports on the toxic chemicals being dumped in the Merrimack River, politicians in Massachusetts are pushing for change.

Massachusetts Senators Edward Markey and Elizabeth Warren, and Representatives Richard Neal (MA-01), Seth Moulton (MA-05), and Lori Trahan (MA-03) are calling on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to reassess a permit that would allow water from the Turnkey landfill in New Hampshire to runoff into the Merrimack.

The water from the landfill contains dangerous levels of hazardous substances, mainly per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, also known as PFAS. Certain PFAS, often called "forever chemicals" because they accumulate and persist in the environment and food sources, are linked to cancer, thyroid disease, infertility and learning and developmental abnormalities.

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The Merrimack River provides the drinking water for about 600,000 people.

On Thursday, in an effort to protect it's citizens' drinking water, the City of Lowell decided to suspend acceptance of runoff water from the Turnkey landfill.

"PFAS already pose a serious health risk to residents across Massachusetts," the state lawmakers wrote in their letter to EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. "Efforts to address existing contamination will likely be both lengthy and expensive. Out state does not need additional PFAS pollution to contend with as we work to clean up legacy contamination in our air, soil, and water."

In September, the Trump administration repealed the Clean Water Act, an Obama-era set of protections that limited the amount of pollution and chemicals in streams, rivers, lakes and wetlands across the country. The new rule also limits the number of waterways nationwide the government can protect from pollution.

Experts say the PFAS chemical does not easily break down in the body and it could be in the water of over half a million people.