By Audrey Kaiser
Have you ever thought about what is in your drinking water? The likely answer is no. You are likely to assume that the property you buy is safe unless told otherwise. You are likely to assume that the town you are living in or planning to live in would have things like toxic chemical spills and hazardous waste sites contained or taken care of. You are likely to assume that whoever owned the property before you would have been responsible for cleaning up any hazardous spills or waste sites, especially if they created them. Unfortunately, it is dangerous to assume any of these things when buying a property you and/or others plan to live on. A lot of people may not consider the possibility of unsafe drinking water when buying a property because they are not informed of the issue ahead of time.
House Bill 1610 requires that sellers of properties must perform tests for MTBE, a common hazardous chemical found in NH’s drinking water, on and up to a mile away from that property. A physical map of where those toxic hazards are found in relation to the property using OneStop Data Mapper is also to be provided by the seller. MTBE, being used as an oxygen additive in gasoline, can be found in a number of sites for a variety of reasons. Some of the required sites listed in that bill that must be identified if near a property are: auto salvage yards, hazardous waste generators, remediation sites, solid waste facilities, underground storage tanks, environmental monitoring sites, and local potential contamination sources. Over time, the chemicals from these sites can have carcinogenic effects on humans. The purpose of this bill is to prevent buyers from unknowingly purchasing property with contaminated groundwater and consuming it.
Although this bill has good intentions, there are many concerns and negative opinions about it. One concern is that properties will be much harder to sell if the test results show evidence of MTBE contamination. If there’s MTBE in the drinking water of the property, it is assumed that nobody is going to want to buy that property. If somebody really needs to sell their house, it will be made much more difficult for them, and the value of their property is likely to decrease. Another concern is that one mile is much too far to measure, being as that would include other people’s properties, and those of surrounding businesses if applicable. A third concern is that once the hazardous waste site is found and identified, who will be responsible for cleaning it up― the buyer or the seller? That will cost a lot of money and time, and there are arguments for both sides. Although all of these concerns are valid, the bill can be altered to accommodate for certain concerns and should ultimately be passed into law.
This bill is extremely important and should absolutely be made law. Potentially saving one or more human lives is more important than all of the concessions previously mentioned. Amendments can be made to the bill so as to address the concerns. Spills or sites can be cleaned up or significantly reduced, but that can’t happen if they are not known about. Changes can be made to address the current problems, but changes cannot be made to save lives once it is too late. People are getting cancer from being exposed to and consuming MTBE contaminated drinking water, and this problem is certainly avoidable if appropriate action is taken. This bill is the appropriate action. This bill will at least allow people to make an educated choice about buying a potentially dangerous property, and therefore potentially save lives.
By Mckane Merrifield
With many environmental safety issues facing the public today, New Hampshire state representative Jim McConnell proposed house bill 1680. The bill states that houses sold in New Hampshire must have a water test for MTBE and PFC’s completed and a map of all local hazards within a mile. MBTE was used in gasoline as an additive, it was abandoned by gas companies because many state made regulation but the damages were already done. Once the water is contaminated it is very difficult to remove because it is so water soluble. Over time the consumption of MBTE can cause cancers and other diseases. Many would agree that everyone should know if there drinking water is safe if you have a public supplied water it is tested regularly to make sure it is safe. The problem is private wells are contaminated and is unknown by the home owner and the people who are using the water. Then they try to sell the house and another family can become effected.
I agree with the house bill 1610 I think that people should know that they are safe in their new home. Some might argue that the distances required for the map are to lager but while we speculate on distances we could be making changes in the larger picture instead of minute details. People can still sell their homes if they lay within some boundaries of being close to auto salvage yards, redemption centers and more it’s the water test that can end a sale of a property because who would want to buy an unsafe water supply. Other problems are that the sellers of the property must provide the water test and map. Some say it should be required from the buyer who would want to make sure the water is safe and they are making the investment of buying a property. A buyer now could ask to perform a water test in today’s real estate market without the bill in effect but, if the seller has multiply offers to buy the property and you want a water test they might reject your offer and sell the property to another buyer who is not asking for a water test.
The house bill seems as if will do more good than harm with more people seeing the risks of contaminated drinking water. This could help the public immensely by showing the buyers that there is contamination instead of blindly being served cancer and other diseases. Many people will be for the bill and some will be against it for some of the minute details that they don’t agree with. But who would want to harm someone to the extent of having them use and consume hazardous water. But let me ask you this do you know if your water is safe for drinking, cooking, and showering water is such a major factor of everyday life but, sometimes we know so little about where it came from and where it goes?
By Isaiah Bates
Thousands of government employees, institutions, and even civilians make up the interworking web that is the United States Government. Our political system is in place to establish laws that protect and enable our citizens and make sure everyone has a fair shot at what is called the “American Dream”. We entrust our votes to individuals who we believe will create change and have a positive impact in the political system. This change can be introducing bills as stated earlier such as providing farmers with government subsidies, or increasing funds to help repair infrastructure or to improve our education sector. On the other hand, bills that have an adverse effect such as reducing environmental protections for state parks, or tax breaks for gas companies are also regularly introduced into the house and senate. This is why when a bill is introduced that has a positive impact or benefits for civilians its essential to highlight this piece of legislation and help to make sure it becomes law.
One bill that fits this positive category is house bill 1610 proposed by Representative Jim McConnell (NH-R) on January 3rd 2018. This bill in my opinion is an exemplary view of expanding protections for individual’s health, and providing transparency when it comes to the market or real estate. This bill proposes that land owners who are selling land or a house must disclose environmental hazards such as; underground storage tanks, auto salvage yards, hazardous waste generators, and remediation sites. To further this, they must also provide evidence of clean water, with dates of recent water tests and a full history of any problems that may have occurred previously. Real estate itself is a lucrative business that generates billions of dollars a year, and with billions of dollars generated its inevitable that dishonesty or scams have occurred. For example, to sell a house that’s been on the market for years an individual might drop the price dramatically to entice buyers and then sell it. However, during that dramatic price drop what the seller “forgot” to mention was the raging asbestos in your child’s room, or the tap water you’ve been drinking has had elevated levels of perfluorinated chemicals (PFC) in the past. That’s why this bill proposed to protect buyers in New Hampshire is very crucial and people who support this bill should fight to see it become law. The other reason I support this bill and think its important is the environmental aspect to it.
Not only does it ensure the protection for buyers, it also helps create a secondary hand to the environment. If this bill becomes law individuals who live around any of these hazards and want to be future land sellers are going to have to become environmentally conscious. They will either help restore these sites or ensure that these hazards don’t occur in the future. If this bill becomes law its going to be very difficult to get around these hazards, so I can see a real positive impact on the environment stemming from this legislation. Another aspect to think about in this bill is the snowball effect it could produce, what if other states want similar protections for the environment and their citizens? This bill potentially has the power for strong environmental protection in New Hampshire, now imagine say if Maine, Connecticut, or California was to enact this? The potential is enormous, thus why I think its essential that people back this bill as it supports protection for everyday people and the environment which we desperately need.
NH Science for Citizens
Department of Environmental Studies
Keene State College
Keene, NH 03431
A project of students and faculty at Keene State College in collaboration with local NH state representatives.