U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) delivered remarks celebrating the completion of the Grafton Road Drinking Water Treatment Facility located at the Pease International Tradeport. During the ceremony, Shaheen was joined by Acting Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Installations, Environment and Energy Jennifer Miller, as well as federal and local officials and advocates. Before her remarks, Shaheen toured the water treatment plant.
The event marked the end of construction for the newly-opened facility, which began in 2019 as part of an agreement between the city of Portsmouth and the United States Air Force after the city closed a major water supply well located in the area that contained high levels of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), toxic chemicals that have been linked to adverse health impacts. Containing state-of-the-art water filtration technologies, the opening of the facility is a positive step forward towards allowing the Portsmouth community to access clean drinking water from the impacted well.
“Every family in New Hampshire and across the country deserves access to safe and clean drinking water. Today, with the Grafton Road Drinking Water Treatment Facility officially coming online, Pease and the Portsmouth community have taken an important step forward towards achieving that goal,” said Senator Shaheen. “Addressing PFAS contamination in our communities has long been an urgent issue that I’ve prioritized in Congress, and I’m grateful for the advocacy of so many of our local leaders who’ve supported my work and have been drivers of change here in New Hampshire. I was thrilled to be on hand this morning to celebrate the completion of this facility, which was made possible by the tireless efforts of the city of Portsmouth, advocates like Andrea Amico and the Pease Moms and the Air Force’s partnership with the community. We’ve made great progress in delivering clean drinking water to Granite Staters, and I will keep up the fight in Washington to help ensure all Granite Staters have safe, clean water.”
Senator Shaheen has spearheaded efforts in Congress to uncover the potential health effects related to PFAS contamination, respond to the chemical exposure and remediate polluted sites. Shaheen has consistently secured and boosted federal funding for the PFAS health impact study that she worked to establish four years ago. Because of her efforts, Pease is serving as a model site for the nationwide study. The study at Pease is actively seeking participants. Last week, the Senate overwhelmingly voted to approve the Drinking Water and Wastewater Infrastructure Act of 2021, which contained a bipartisan amendment from Shaheen that allows states to assist more households, including those who rely on private wells, impacted by contaminants such as PFAS. In February, Shaheen reintroduced bipartisan legislation with Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC) to provide rural communities under economic strain during the COVID-19 pandemic with $1 billion in emergency assistance to repair, modernize and renovate failing water infrastructure. She has also championed legislation, the PFAS Testing and Treatment Act that would provide substantial federal funding for PFAS remediation in drinking water, and groundwater, including private wells. In addition, Shaheen recently joined a bipartisan group of Senators in urging Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen to allow state, tribal, and local governments to use funds allocated through the American Rescue Plan to address contamination from PFAS, including in local water supplies.
Later in Laconia, Shaheen hosted a roundtable discussion with staff and residents at the Compass House to highlight funding in the December emergency COVID-19 relief legislation and the American Rescue Plan that will help combat the substance use disorder and mental health crises in New Hampshire. Granite Staters struggling with substance use disorders have experienced worsened economic instability, increased isolation and reduced access to stable housing, mental health and recovery services during the pandemic. In addition, many programs like the Compass House have faced serious financial difficulties that have threatened their ability to stay open. During the event, Shaheen discussed her continuing work in the Senate to address substance use disorders and coexisting mental health conditions.
“I want to thank the Compass House for their critical work to support treatment and recovery for Granite Staters with substance use disorder, particularly during these incredibly difficult times,” said Senator Shaheen. “As our conversation today highlighted, COVID-19 exacerbated the substance use disorder epidemic, which created obstacles for providers and compounded the challenges affecting Granite Staters struggling with substance misuse. Congress must provide further federal assistance to help turn the tide of this crisis, which is why I fought for provisions in the most recent COVID relief packages and have sponsored legislation to invest in substance use disorder treatment, recovery and prevention. Responding to the mental health and substance use disorder crises will continue to be top of mind as negotiations begin on government funding legislation for the next fiscal year.”
Shaheen has spearheaded crucial legislation and funding to stem the substance use epidemic, including through her leadership on the pivotal Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies. In government funding legislation signed into law in 2019, Shaheen included a key provision from the 2019 version of the Turn the Tide Act to provide flexibility for treatment providers to use State Opioid Response (SOR) grant dollars to help patients suffering from meth and cocaine dependency, in addition to opioid use disorders. Shaheen wrote the provision in response to discussions with New Hampshire treatment providers. Shaheen retained this provision in government funding legislation for fiscal year (FY) signed into law in December. The FY2021 funding legislation also provided $1.5 billion in SOR grant funding, as well as the continuing of a 15 percent set-aside that Shaheen fought to secure in 2018 for hard-hit states like New Hampshire. These combined efforts led to a more than tenfold increase in federal treatment and prevention funding for New Hampshire. Over the past four years, New Hampshire has received approximately $92 million from these grants Shaheen helped secure to combat the opioid epidemic in the state, with the hardest-hit state set-aside responsible for the majority of those funds.
Shaheen has fought to secure funding for substance misuse and mental health care services during the pandemic, including $4.25 billion in funding through December’s emergency COVID relief legislation and nearly $4 billion through the American Rescue Plan.