Elevated levels of PFAs detected in town’s water samples

349

The town announced Friday via a press release that water from Well 6, located off Fruit Street, showed slightly elevated levels of regulated chemicals known as PFAs.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, PFAs — per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances — are a group of of man-made chemicals that have been manufactured and used in a variety of industries around the globe, including in the United States since the 1940s. Some of the chemicals are very persistent in the environment and in the human body — meaning they don’t break down and they can accumulate over time. There is evidence that exposure to PFAs can lead to adverse human health effects, including liver, blood, thyroid, fetal development and immune systems effects.

In October 2020, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) adopted a strict drinking water standard, limiting the quantities of six specific PFA chemicals to no more than 20 parts per trillion. The Environmental Protection Agency, meanwhile, set the federal limit at 70 parts per trillion.

Samples from Well 6 collected in July detected PFA levels at 20.9 parts per trillion, while a follow-up test in August showed 20.5 parts per trillion, the town stated. The average of 20.7 is slightly above MassDEP’s standards.

“While PFAs [have] been around for nearly half a century, we are just beginning to understand the possible adverse effects that these chemicals have on water supply systems and public health,” Town Manager Norman Khumalo stated. “Recently, government agencies have instituted aggressive regulations to combat the problem, which we believe are necessary to protect people long term. I encourage every resident and business owner to read the published materials so that you can understand PFAs chemicals.”

According to the press release, the town is investigating treatment options to mitigate the PFA levels.

“As a whole, New England is taking very aggressive steps to mitigate the levels of these chemicals and their possible effects on public health. We will continue to monitor the wells and take the appropriate actions,” said Water-Sewer Manager Eric Carty. “We are investigating corrective measures, and will keep the community informed of our progress.”

The topic is on the agenda for Tuesday’s Select Board meeting.