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Innovation, partnership bring Pease water treatment plant online

Department of the Air Force officials joined Portsmouth and New Hampshire elected representatives at a ceremony May 4 at the former Pease Air Force Base

(Left to Right) Rick Becksted, Portsmouth, New Hampshire, Mayor, Brian Goetz, City Deputy Director Public Works, U.S. Representative Chris Pappas, U.S. Senator Maggie Hassan, Andrea Amico, Pease Restoration Advisory Board Co-Chair, and U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen, join Jennifer Miller, acting Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Energy, Installations and Environment to dedicate the Pease Water Treatment Plant May 4 at the former Pease AFB, NH. (Courtesy Photo)

PORTSMOUTH, New Hampshire – Department of the Air Force officials joined Portsmouth and New Hampshire elected representatives at a ceremony May 4 at the former Pease Air Force Base to mark the opening of a state-of-the-art water treatment facility that will help protect the community’s drinking water supply.

“The standup of this plant represents not only environmental protection, but also hard work, innovative thinking, and cooperation among many stakeholders, including our federal, state and local community partners,” said Jennifer Miller, acting Secretary of the Air Force for Energy, Installations and the Environment. U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan, Representative Chris Pappas, Air Force Civil Engineer Center Base Realignment and Closure program management chief Dr. Steve TerMaath, and Andrea Amico, Pease Restoration Advisory Board Community Co Chair also attended the event.

The facility is part of the Air Force’s on-going effort to ensure two compounds – perfluorooctane sulfonate and perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOS/PFOA – associated with is past firefighting mission do not impact the community’s drinking water supplies. In May, 2014, PFOS and PFOA were identified in the Pease Haven Well at levels above the Environmental Protection Agency’s lifetime health advisory for drinking water. AFCEC worked with the city to retrofit the drinking water facility that uses ion exchange resin and granular activated carbon to filter the water and remove PFAS.

The new facility can treat up to 1.7 million gallons of water a day, said Al Pratt, the city’s water resource manager. The filtration system has been treating two additional wells, and PFAS chemicals now at below detectable levels. By summer, the facility will also be removing PFAS from the Haven Well, which the city closed in May 2014 when PFAS was first identified as a contaminant of concern.

“To see this beautiful treatment plant and all of the work that’s gone into it is a testament… (to) the cooperative effort that everyone has made to identify a problem and then not take no for an answer, figure out a solution, and get it done for the people of this community and it serves as a real model,” Shaheen said.

Officials at the ceremony hosted by Brian Goetz, Portsmouth’s Deputy Director of Public Works, lauded the numerous collaborative efforts between the Air Force and the City, beginning in 2015 when the Air Force entered cooperative agreements with the city of Portsmouth, providing more than $17 million to add treatment for removal of PFOS/PFOA and retrofit the City’s Grafton plant. 

To date, the Air Force has spent $65 million to protect drinking water at Pease, in a coordinated effort with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services. 

The Pease Restoration Advisory Board also played an important role in the cleanup and their Community Co-Chair, Amico, expressed appreciation for the milestone dedication ceremony. Amico said she was glad to see the treatment facility finished, and looks forward to more progress with regulations and health information in the future. The board provides a forum for community concerns and enables a channel for continuous communications between the community and government officials.

“The completion of this treatment plant is a huge milestone, extremely important and could not have been accomplished without keeping sight of our goal: to protect drinking water for the greater Pease community,” Miller said.