City of Portsmouth Receives Department of Environmental Services Permit to Restore Haven Well to Operation

August 2, 2021

he City of Portsmouth took the Haven Well off-line in 2014 after testing revealed the presence of perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) chemicals in the water at levels that measured higher than the Environmental Protection Agency’s preliminary health advisory level. After seven years of research, treatment piloting and engineering design, followed by the installation at the upgraded Pease Water Treatment Facility of a sophisticated, multi-step treatment system which includes cartridge, resin filtration and GAC filtration, the NH Department of Environmental Services (NHDES) has issued a permit for the City to restore operation of the well. The well is expected to go back into service the week of August 2, 2021.

The NHDES permit, posted to the City websitestates, “The New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services (NHDES) issues to the Pease Development Authority and Portsmouth approval for the reactivation of the Haven Well (Source ID 1951020-002), a large community production well that serves the Pease Trade Port water system (Pease). This approval is based on a review of materials submitted in July 2021 by Weston & Sampson. The request allows the Pease Water Treatment Plant (WTP) to operate at full capacity with use of all the intended wells, including the Haven, Harrison, and Smith Wells. The laboratory results provided as part of the request demonstrates the finished water quality while treating the Haven well is in compliance with current standards, including non-detect levels of PFAS. We therefore approve the Pease WTP to operate with the inclusion of the Haven Well as a source of supply.” The full Weston & Sampson report is also posted to the City website.

“Restoring the Haven Well to the City of Portsmouth Water System marks another significant step in the seven year-long incremental plan, working in conjunction with the Air Force’s Civil Engineering Center to respond to the presence of PFAS contaminants that were impacting three Pease drinking water wells,” said Portsmouth Department of Public Works Deputy Director Brian Goetz. “The first milestone this year for the drinking water system was the completion of the Pease Water Treatment Facility upgrade in April. Testing and reactivation of the Haven Well is the next. The success we have achieved in filtering the Haven Well restores this supply to the drinking water system.”

Dr. Stephen TerMaath, Air Force Civil Engineer Center, BRAC Program Management Chief commented, “The Air Force recognizes this major achievement for the City of Portsmouth under the leadership of City water officials. The City collaborated with all stakeholders including State and US EPA regulators, engaged citizens and elected officials to design and construct a water treatment system, with Air Force funding, using the best available technology for protection of public health. Congratulations to Portsmouth on this major milestone.”

Past use at the former Pease Air Base of firefighting foam containing PFAS compounds contributed to this contamination. Subsequently, the Air Force agreed to work with the City to treat the drinking water serving the Pease International Tradeport system. The City of Portsmouth and the United States Air Force signed an agreement in 2018 to treat perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) from water supplied by the Smith, Harrison and Haven Wells serving the Pease Tradeport drinking water system. The agreement provided the City with funds to reimburse the cost of construction of the final treatment system for all three wells, including a dual filtration system consisting of resin and granular activated-carbon filters. 

In September 2016, the City launched a PFAS removal demonstration project that involved the installation of granular activated carbon (GAC) filters for the Harrison and Smith Wells. Subsequently, the City was approached by the firm ECT2 to pilot resin filter technology for the treatment. The success of that pilot led to the inclusion of both resin and GAC in the final Pease Water Treatment Facility and the inclusion of Haven Well in the treatment process. Testing has demonstrated that the process removes PFAS compounds from the drinking water and NH DES has issued a permit for the City to return the Haven Well to the system. Once the well is activated, the City Water Department will continue to conduct extensive performance testing of the water quality to ensure that the system performs as designed and the water quality meets all drinking water standards.