Rocks and Dinosaurs

In 1981, Mindi Messmer enrolled at Syracuse University and started to study computer science. Soon told her mother that this particular major was not for her.  “Well,” said her mother, “You’ve always liked rocks.”  And so Mindi switched her major to geology. 

Mindi graduated from Syracuse in 1985 and went on to study bedrock geology at the University of New Hampshire in Durham.

In 1988 Mindi started to work in the environmental science field.  She continued to work in that field starting her own woman-owned business in 1998.  

Later that year, Mindi's son Justin was born and in 2002 Mindi's son Kegan was born. Working at home in her own business afforded Mindi the opportunity to keep up with the needs of her family and her business at the same time.

In 2013, Mindi decided to try classes at Georgetown University to better understand how toxins impact public health.  She enrolled and graduated with an M.S. Degree in Clinical and Translational Science in May 2018.

Cancer Cluster

In early 2014,  Kegan Messmer, ten, of Rye, NH, told his mother that kids in his elementary school were getting sick.  Really sick.  One of the boys had leukemia and others had cancer.  Kegan’s mom, environmental consultant Mindi Messmer, had recently enrolled in a graduate program in epidemiology at Georgetown University.  She was taking classes remotely, visiting the Washington, DC, campus about once a month.  

Mindi was alarmed by Kegan’s news. It seemed to her an unusually high concentration of childhood cancer cases for such a small area.  She talked with friends who were equally concerned.  Four cases of a rare childhood soft-tissue cancer, rhabdomyosarcoma (RMS), come to light.  The women suspected that the cause of the outbreak was environmental.

Mindi investigated further.  Based on her research, in March 2014, she contacted the State of New Hampshire Cancer Registry, based at Dartmouth University’s Geisel School of Medicine, and reported the cancer cluster in Rye.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a greater-than-expected number of cases of the same type of cancer, occurring in a limited geographical area over a limited period of time, comprises a cluster.

The Cluster 

From 1972 to 1982 the Coakley Landfill, a 27-acre site located in the towns of Northampton and Greenland, abutting Rye, accepted municipal and industrial waste products from surrounding towns.  When this practice was discontinued, the site was used for disposal of incinerator residue from the Pease Air Force Base.  As early as 1979, residents of properties near the landfill complained to the state about the poor quality of their well water; in December of 1983, the Superfund National Priorities List, which tracks known releases or threatened releases of hazardous substances, pollutants, or contaminants throughout the United States and its territories, identified the following “substances of concern” (read: carcinogens) at the landfill: benzene, tetrachloroethene, arsenic, 2-butanone, phenol, diethyl phthalate, chlorobenzene, dichloroethane, chromium and nickel.  In 1989 the landfill was declared a source of contamination in local surface waters, groundwater and, to an unknown extent, in wetlands to the west.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency’s website, “The primary source of contamination is the landfill. VOCs and metals are the primary contaminants. On- and off-site surface water and groundwater are contaminated. The site is located on a groundwater/surface water divide, and residential wells to the south, southeast and northeast are contaminated with low levels of VOCs. Residential and commercial areas surround the site.” https://cumulis.epa.gov/superc... 

On February 11, 2016, two years after Mindi Messmer voiced her concerns to the New Hampshire Cancer Registry, Mindi and another mother were called to the Rye Library, where state epidemiologist Dr. Benjamin Chan told them that, in fact, cases of children with cancer were occurring at a higher-than-expected rate in Rye, Portsmouth, North Hampton, Greenland, and New Castle.  But the NH Department of Health and Human Services said no action would be taken because the cause of the outbreak could not be definitively determined.

A month later, speaking to Rye residents gathered at the Rye Elementary School, Dr. Chan repeated that a high number of cases had occurred in the five towns in close proximity to the Coakley Landfill, from which, according to the EPA, the various carcinogens listed above had leaked.  

On the evening of Tuesday, March 15, 2016—two years after Mindi Messmer voiced her concerns to the New Hampshire Cancer Registry, state epidemiologist Dr. Benjamin Chan told a gathering of residents at the Rye Elementary School that, indeed, an unusually high number of cases of RMS had occurred in the five towns in close proximity to the Coakley Landfill, from which, according to the EPA, the various carcinogens listed above had leaked.  

Residents at the meeting expressed concern about the Coakley Landfill.

But Dr. Chan repeated that no action would be taken because the cause of the cluster could not be definitively identified.

Not everyone was convinced.

Activism 

In 2016, then-New Hampshire Governor Maggie Hassan, a resident of nearby Exeter, quickly created a Task Force on the Seacoast Cancer Cluster.  The governor appointed Mindi to the task force.  Later it was converted to a commission whose work is still ongoing.

Among those who were impressed by Mindi’s work on the cluster issue was State Rep. Dr. Tom Sherman of Rye.  Sherman, who had decided to run for a seat in the State Senate, urged Mindi to run for his open seat.  

She told him he was nuts.  She told him she was a mom, a scientist, a business owner, but not a politician.  He told her, “We need more scientists in policy-making.”  

She ran.  She won.  She was the top vote-getter in the district.

In less than two years, she has passed three bills that were signed into law in her freshman year that formed three commissions working to prevent cancer and chronic illness in New Hampshire and protect drinking water.  She is also credited with raising awareness about drinking water protection in the state. This session she has worked on 41 bills, about half that she sponsored, to prevent cancer and chronic disease, protect workers’, minorities’, and women's rights and for economic and social justice.  She has continued to seek justice and closure for the families of cancer sufferers who live in close proximity to the Coakley Landfill.

The Next Chapter

Last fall, after U.S. Rep. Carol Shea-Porter (D-NH announced that she would not run for re-election, Mindi considered entering the race to succeed her.  

She examined the makeup of the current Congress and noted that the great majority of its members were lawyers or businessmen.

You could count the number of scientists on one hand and have fingers left over.

During her time in the State House Mindi has effectively advocated for an increase in the minimum wage; reproductive rights; gender equality; universal health care; expanded Social Security, and a range of environmental issued based on her conviction that every American has the right to clean air and clean water.  

She determined that, in one way or another, a scientist’s perspective would enrich the conversations about each of these issues on the national level.

On November 14, 2017, she announced her candidacy.  

She has been working hard running a grassroots campaign ever since.

check out the campaign website: www.mindiforcongress.com

facebook: @mindi4congress

twitter: @mindi4congress


Show your support for this campaign by endorsing it and sharing why!

  • endorsed

    “We need more intelligent women to be a voice for those being broken down and ridiculed by the rich, white male dominance correctly stinking up our government.”

  • endorsed

    “I am 68 and had never registered to vote because my view of political races was that elections were bought and sold by the PACS and Special Interest contributions. Through some research of my own I found that Mindi was not being bought by anybody....so I immediately registered to vote and donated to Mindi's campaign and this is my 2nd contribution. Take the money out - Take the corruption out. GO Mindi!”

  • endorsed

    “Mindi is a truly extra-ordinary individual. She combines an extensive knowledge of scientific and technical concepts with a deep desire to help solve "people problems" and "community problems". Those skills are quite rare to be combined in one individual, let alone in an individual that is committed to serve our best public interests as a politician. We can't let those rare gifts and skills get away in a time when our difficult scientific and technical issues of health, environmental contamination, and survival scream out for someone with Mindi's skills and expertise . She deserves our complete support to be elected to New Hampshire's 1st Congressional District in the primary election September 11th, and in the general election in November.”

  • endorsed

    “I support Mindi Messmer because of her dedication to clean water, appropriate regulations regarding contamination and accountability of polluters.”

  • endorsed

    “Mindi Messmer is a passionate advocate and a seasoned fighter for the principles I care most about - womens' rights and reproductive choice, public health and environmental protection, universal health care, common sense gun safety laws, LGBTQ rights, labor rights, and economic justice. As a scientist, she knows the importance of making evidence-based policy choices. As a legislator, she is well-respected by Democrats and Republicans and knows how to reach across party lines to find common ground. She refuses to take SuperPAC money because she has seen the powerful influence wielded by national and state lobbyists and her vote is not for sale. She has deep connections to New Hampshire and is the most worthy successor to Carol Shea-Porter in the first congressional district. Join me in supporting her grassroots, people-powered campaign and help send her to Washington!”

  • endorsed

    “She's a smart and passionate and works for proactive improvement.”

  • endorsed

    “Just spend one minute with Mindi and you will understand. Or listen to her at a meeting, making a presentation. Sure, Mindi is a scientist and she knows her stuff...but her message - what she cares about - are the things we care about. She cares about giving kids a healthy environment and a great education and the decent healthcare they deserve; she cares about protecting senior citizens. Her message is delivered with profound empathy. Yeah, she's smarter than most, she knows the issues better than most...but, unlike most politicians, she never condescends. And, boy, when she discovers that our kids are in harm's way...watch out! She will raise hell on earth...and goodness knows, we could use a few more hell-raisers in Congress...I believe Mindi and I believe in her. She's my choice. Take a hard look at her. I think you will be pleasantly surprised. An amazing person who will protect what we care about. She's the one.”

  • endorsed

    “Mindi's views and legislative successes, based in both scientific expertise and citizen common sense, have protected people's rights, by protecting what these rights ultimately trace back to--our ecosystems and our equal access to opportunity.”

  • endorsed

    “Because she has already proven herself as a warrior for Economic, Social, Racial and Environmental Justice and is going to take the Political Revolution that Bernie Sanders started to the U.S. House of Representatives!”

  • endorsed

    “Mindi fights for change that will benefit not just the here & now but the future as well. She has been and will continue to fight for issues that have long term, lasting impact on our future generations.”

November 27, 2018

Messmer vows to continue fight on environmental issues

By Jeff McMenemy 
jmcmenemy@seacoastonline.com

PORTSMOUTH - State Rep. Mindi Messmer pledged that her involvement with numerous environmental issues around the state won’t end when her term does.

Messmer was the first person to contact the state in 2016 about what she believed was an unusually high number of pediatric cancers in Rye.

The state Department of Health and Human Services later confirmed Messmer’s suspicions were correct and identified a Seacoast cancer cluster, involving two rare pediatric cancers.

Messmer, D-Rye, a first-term state representative who did not run for re-election to the House, said she plans to continue “emphasizing the pediatric cancer rate and how concerning that is.”

“Children are getting sick at an alarming level in New Hampshire,” Messmer stated in reference to a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that New Hampshire had the highest per capita pediatric cancer rate in the country. “We need to implement a more proactive and protective approach.”

Messmer, who successfully had several bills she either wrote or co-wrote signed into law, ran to be her party’s Congressional nominee in the state’s first district.

She finished third behind U.S. Rep.-elect Chris Pappas.

Messmer said Monday she does not regret running for Congress, even though she gave up her house seat in the process.

“The reasons I ran for Congress were important and I’m very happy I did that,” Messmer said. “I wanted to raise the level of awareness and people’s understanding of important issues like drinking water quality, cancer concerns and climate change.”

“It was a good thing to do. It really raised the profile of these issues, If I had to do it all over again, I’d definitely run again,” Messmer added.

The biggest thing she learned from her Congressional run is “how much money plays a part in elections, whether we want to believe it or not.”

“It’s a huge factor. It’s hard to run a grass-roots campaign in New Hampshire,” she said. “You basically have to have enough money to be on TV.”

The most rewarding part of her Congressional run is “really just the appreciation from the people I met.”

“I got another email last night from a family who really appreciated me being a role model for their daughters,” Messmer said. ”(They said) I wasn’t the typical politician and talked about important issues.”

“When I get those types of emails it makes it all worthwhile,” Messmer said.

While she plans to continue working with state lawmakers on issues that are important to her, Messmer is not finished with public service.

“I’m definitely planning on doing something in 2020. I don’t know yet exactly what that’s going to be, but I’m going to run again,” she said.

Messmer also hopes to continue serving on the Seacoast Cancer Cluster Commission, which her legislation created.

She wants to continue studying the potential causes of cancers that have claimed the lives of several Seacoast children by serving on the commission.

“It’s important to me to be on the commission,” she said.

Messmer is also doing consulting work with the Union of Concerned Scientists “on defense related budget items.”

“We’re working on trying to get a resolution passed on reduced spending for military preparations,” Messmer said.

The Rye lawmaker met last week with Gov. Chris Sununu.

“It went really well,” Messmer said.

She pressed him to better address the contamination leaching from the Coakley Landfill, a Superfund cleanup site in Greenland and North Hampton.

She also asked Sununu to “get actively involved in combating cancer rates in the state.”

In addition to pediatric cancer, New Hampshire has the highest per capita rates of breast cancer and bladder cancer.

“He was very interested in both,” Messmer said about her meeting with Sununu.

The high cancer rates in New Hampshire should concern everyone, she said.

“I think it’s concerning and most people do not associate the state of New Hampshire with that. I basically say it every time I get in front of a crowd, and will keep saying it until we recognize how big a problem it is,” Messmer said.

She will also continue serving on the Pease Restoration Advisory Board (RAB), which is dealing with PFAS contamination at the former Pease Air Force Base in Portsmouth.

Thousands of people, including children at two Pease day cares, were exposed to PFAS through Portsmouth’s Haven well, which has been closed since May 2014.

The EPA in May 2016 set permanent health advisories for PFOS and perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA at 70 parts per trillion.

In addition to being a suspected carcinogen, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry states PFAS exposure can harm childhood development, increase cholesterol levels, hurt the immune system and interfere with the human body’s hormones.

“I’m very concerned about migrations of chemicals off the Pease site and into the Newington area, and into area streams and ultimately Great Bay,” Messmer said.

She enjoyed her time as a state representative, where she worked across party lines on issues.

“I am definitely going to miss being an elected representative right now, but I’m going to stay involved,” Messmer said.



Back to all updates

Show your support for this campaign by endorsing it and sharing why!

  • endorsed

  • endorsed

    “We need more intelligent women to be a voice for those being broken down and ridiculed by the rich, white male dominance correctly stinking up our government.”

  • endorsed

    “I am 68 and had never registered to vote because my view of political races was that elections were bought and sold by the PACS and Special Interest contributions. Through some research of my own I found that Mindi was not being bought by anybody....so I immediately registered to vote and donated to Mindi's campaign and this is my 2nd contribution. Take the money out - Take the corruption out. GO Mindi!”

  • endorsed

    “Mindi is a truly extra-ordinary individual. She combines an extensive knowledge of scientific and technical concepts with a deep desire to help solve "people problems" and "community problems". Those skills are quite rare to be combined in one individual, let alone in an individual that is committed to serve our best public interests as a politician. We can't let those rare gifts and skills get away in a time when our difficult scientific and technical issues of health, environmental contamination, and survival scream out for someone with Mindi's skills and expertise . She deserves our complete support to be elected to New Hampshire's 1st Congressional District in the primary election September 11th, and in the general election in November.”

  • endorsed

    “I support Mindi Messmer because of her dedication to clean water, appropriate regulations regarding contamination and accountability of polluters.”

  • endorsed

    “Mindi Messmer is a passionate advocate and a seasoned fighter for the principles I care most about - womens' rights and reproductive choice, public health and environmental protection, universal health care, common sense gun safety laws, LGBTQ rights, labor rights, and economic justice. As a scientist, she knows the importance of making evidence-based policy choices. As a legislator, she is well-respected by Democrats and Republicans and knows how to reach across party lines to find common ground. She refuses to take SuperPAC money because she has seen the powerful influence wielded by national and state lobbyists and her vote is not for sale. She has deep connections to New Hampshire and is the most worthy successor to Carol Shea-Porter in the first congressional district. Join me in supporting her grassroots, people-powered campaign and help send her to Washington!”

  • endorsed

    “She's a smart and passionate and works for proactive improvement.”

  • endorsed

  • endorsed

    “Just spend one minute with Mindi and you will understand. Or listen to her at a meeting, making a presentation. Sure, Mindi is a scientist and she knows her stuff...but her message - what she cares about - are the things we care about. She cares about giving kids a healthy environment and a great education and the decent healthcare they deserve; she cares about protecting senior citizens. Her message is delivered with profound empathy. Yeah, she's smarter than most, she knows the issues better than most...but, unlike most politicians, she never condescends. And, boy, when she discovers that our kids are in harm's way...watch out! She will raise hell on earth...and goodness knows, we could use a few more hell-raisers in Congress...I believe Mindi and I believe in her. She's my choice. Take a hard look at her. I think you will be pleasantly surprised. An amazing person who will protect what we care about. She's the one.”

  • endorsed

    “Mindi's views and legislative successes, based in both scientific expertise and citizen common sense, have protected people's rights, by protecting what these rights ultimately trace back to--our ecosystems and our equal access to opportunity.”

  • endorsed

  • endorsed

    “Because she has already proven herself as a warrior for Economic, Social, Racial and Environmental Justice and is going to take the Political Revolution that Bernie Sanders started to the U.S. House of Representatives!”

  • endorsed

    “Mindi fights for change that will benefit not just the here & now but the future as well. She has been and will continue to fight for issues that have long term, lasting impact on our future generations.”

  • endorsed

    “We need to have policy makers who understand science!”

  • endorsed

    “We need clear headed science people making policies!”

  • endorsed

  • endorsed

  • endorsed

    “I support Mindi Messmer because she is a passionate advocate for safe drinking water and a clean environment.”

  • endorsed

    “Mindi has true interest in the welfare of the people of NH and of the environment--the common good.”

  • endorsed

    “I endorse Mindi Messmer because she generally is concerned about clean water in NH and the health of the citizens and really understands the science.”

  • endorsed

    “I am endorsing Mindi because we need more scientists, clear-thinkers, and progressives in Congress.”

  • endorsed

    “Her voice is needed in Washington.”