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Saint-Gobain Announces Closure of New Hampshire Plant Linked to PFAS Water Contamination

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Saint-Gobain to Close New Hampshire Plant Linked to PFAS Water Contamination

Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics, a French company accused of contaminating drinking water in several New Hampshire communities with PFAS chemicals, has announced its plans to shut down the plant in Merrimack. The company stated that it will collaborate with the state on the ongoing environmental investigation. The decision to close the plant comes after evaluating the company's business goals and aligning them with its mission and plan. The Merrimack plant, acquired by Saint-Gobain in 2000, initially believed it was not discharging any harmful substances. However, in 2004, the state discovered that the company was exceeding air limits for PFAS after installing more advanced technology. PFAS, or perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, are persistent chemicals known as "forever chemicals" due to their resistance to degradation. They pose significant health risks and are costly to remove from water. The contamination of wells near Saint-Gobain facilities in New York and Vermont brought attention to the issue. In response, the state Department of Environmental Services took action, lowering the standard for PFOA (a type of PFAS) and identifying over 1,000 properties with contaminated water caused by emissions from the Merrimack plant. Saint-Gobain has been providing bottled drinking water and alternate water options to affected properties. The closure of the plant will impact its 164 workers. Saint-Gobain has stated that alternative roles and relocation assistance will be offered to eligible employees who wish to stay with the company. Support packages will also be available for those who will not continue. However, residents express concerns about the long-lasting consequences of the contamination and the costs incurred to address the issue. In conclusion, the closure of the Saint-Gobain plant in Merrimack marks a significant step in addressing the PFAS water contamination issue in New Hampshire. The company's decision to collaborate with the state and provide assistance to affected employees is a crucial aspect of the resolution process. However, the impact of the contamination on residents' health and the environment remains a pressing concern.

Implications of Saint-Gobain's Plant Closure on New Businesses

The decision by Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics to shut down its Merrimack plant, linked to PFAS water contamination, offers a crucial lesson for new businesses. This situation underscores the importance of environmental responsibility and the potential repercussions of neglecting it.

Environmental Responsibility: A Non-Negotiable Business Principle

The Merrimack plant, which Saint-Gobain acquired in 2000, was found to be exceeding air limits for PFAS chemicals in 2004. These "forever chemicals" pose significant health risks and are expensive to remove from water. The contamination issue brought attention to the company's operations in New York and Vermont, leading to regulatory action and the identification of over 1,000 properties with contaminated water.

Business Impact: Beyond Financials

The closure of the plant impacts not only its 164 workers but also the surrounding communities. While Saint-Gobain has committed to assisting affected employees and providing alternate water options to impacted properties, residents are concerned about the long-term health and environmental consequences.
Lessons for New Businesses
This situation serves as a stark reminder for new businesses of the importance of environmental stewardship. Companies must prioritize sustainable practices to avoid similar incidents. The costs of neglecting environmental responsibility—both financial and reputational—can be significant and long-lasting. As businesses plan their growth strategies, they must ensure they align with environmental sustainability and community wellbeing.
Story First Published at: https://financialpost.com/pmn/business-pmn/saint-gobain-to-close-new-hampshire-plant-blamed-for-pfas-water-contamination
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