The Merrimack PFOA Concerns Health Survey was created to gather data from which to document potential impacts of PFOA exposure in the Merrimack area. Merrimack is a known EPA designated contaminant site with an estimated PFOA exposure range of 10-20 years (Clark Friese, NH DES director, NPR Exchange 8/14/17) Saint Gobain Performance Plastics, formerly Chemfab, is a subject of investigation.
A survey was created on a google form platform to capture data from each household that responded. A flyer was created to distribute the survey URL within the community with this link to take the survey. The flyer included contact information for questions and to conduct the survey via telephone if electronic survey completion was not desirable. The flyer also stated that the information gathered would be released in group format only, without identifying information and would be released publicly upon completion as well as shared with NH DHHS. Information resources on PFOA exposure were also listed on the flyer. Press releases were published in the Nashua Telegraph, the NH Union Leader and the Merrimack Journal announcing the survey, its purpose and inviting all members of the public to participate.
The flyer was posted on various social media sites including the Merrimack Water Issues Facebook Forum, the Merrimack Town Facebook Forum and the Merrimack Water Issues Facebook Forum. Posts on social media forums were made over the course of six weeks to invite members of the public to take the survey. Flyer copies were additionally placed at the library, a dog day care facility, a local farm stand, and the chamber of commerce. Community members were encouraged to copy and share the survey flyer and volunteers were asked for to distribute the survey flyer door to door. Fifteen volunteers responded from the three Merrimack Facebook Forums and three volunteers came from VT Toxic Actions to assist in survey flyer distribution.
Thirteen volunteers distributed survey flyers to their own neighborhoods and five volunteers distributed survey flyers to areas of town that were not represented, specifically in the Northern Part of Merrimack as well as areas to the east and west of Daniel Webster Highway from Depot St to the center of town. Two condominium complexes with a total of 407 residences across from and just north of Saint Gobain are not believed to have been adequately informed due to a no solicitation policy. A residence in each community informed their immediate neighbors.
Volunteers were verbally oriented to the purpose of the survey by the survey administrator. Volunteers were educated on the research that associates the listed survey health conditions with PFOA and ground water test results in the area. They were additionally instructed to point out the resources for additional information listed on the flyer. The flyer listed email and phone contact information to reach the survey administrator for further questions or to take the survey by telephone if the online survey link could not be accessed. The volunteers were not trained to administer the survey and were utilized for distribution and survey visibility. Volunteers were asked to leave a survey flyer in the door of any household that they visited in an individual wasn’t home. A master map was maintained and streets were highlighted that received flyers from volunteers. Every effort was made short of a town wide mailing due to a lack of financial resources to promote visibility of the survey and members of the community were encouraged to take the survey even if they did not have health concerns. Approximately 1100 paper copies of surveys were distributed to households and 200 surveys were left at locations in town.
The Initial Survey section included address, public or private water, how long on public water, whether water had been filtered prior to announcement of PFOA contamination of ground water last year and type of filtration, if current filtration what type and when installed, whether water was tested prior to filtration and if so test results. A section was designed to capture information about each household member that included how long each has lived in the community, addresses lived at and dates, whether member participated in DHHS blood test program and if so what were the test results, whether member worked at St Gobain (former Chemfab) site, if so, when and how long, date of birth and gender. Each member section included a check list of diagnoses that were taken from the NH DHHS website as known to be associated with PFOA exposure. Each section included a section to describe unexplained or difficult to diagnose health concerns as well as age of onset. A statement was included here that the National Institute for Health has stated we do not know all of the impacts of PFOA exposure and the newer replacement chemicals. This design was repeated for up to six household members information and there was an open-ended question at the completion of the survey for anything else people would like to state. Resources for additional information about PFAS were provided at the surveys end.
Two hundred fourteen households completed the survey, including 5 that were taken by telephone and entered into the Google form by one of two survey administrators. Response data was retained within the online Google survey form and response categories were captured in an excel spreadsheet. One survey was deleted by administrators as it was not completed. Thus, the total number of household responses was 213 with total participants counted as 584.