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Select Board considers creating a clean water/PFAS remediation advisory council, approves new hires

by | Feb 28, 2024 | Featured: News, News

The Select Board at its meeting Tuesday night discussed the creation of a clean water/PFAS remediation advisory council to address the town’s concerns about PFAS and other substances in the town’s water supply.

Proposed by vice chair Shahidul Mannan, the advisory council would help the town to “understand the various challenges around it and help formulate the policy around it, through us, the state and larger and higher bodies.”

Mannan noted that PFAS is not only a local but also a global concern, as PFAS, a group of synthetic, potentially harmful chemicals used in a wide variety of household products and industrial processes. seep into drinking water. The ongoing work on PFAS filtration, he said, was a good step forward by the town. He also mentioned the town’s future connection to the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority as another way to remediate the problem.

“Given the depth of the challenge and given the complexity of it, I think a focused council or group of advisors just focusing on this” would be an asset to ensure clean water for town residents, he said.

The proposed committee will look at water quality assessment and formulate PFAS remediation strategies in conjunction with “the town and other expert bodies,” including the DPW, the Planning Board, the Board of Health, environmental groups and other stakeholders. Community education and engagement would be a key focus, as well as research. It would be a collaborative effort, he said.

Member Mary Jo LaFreniere stressed that if the committee is created, one of its goals should be to investigate the impact of the former state firefighter training facility on the town’s water supply, noting that foam containing PFAS was used there. She said it was located near Well 6, where high levels of PFAS have been measured.

Member Amy Ritterbusch questioned whether the committee would be duplicating tasks already being performed by town staff. She praised the community engagement piece because some of the information is difficult to process.

“It has so many tentacles to other bodies and other groups,” added Mannan. “So when we have a focused body they can help coordinate [information] and collect it together.”

Town Manager Norman Khumalo said the stakeholders should comment on the draft proposal that has been previously presented.

Chair Muriel Kramer said the idea has “a ton of potential.” She questioned how it would be implemented.

Mannan said that each stakeholder’s perspective may be unique and complementary. The committee would help to “connect the dots.”

Khumalo suggested holding a stakeholder meeting in about a month to explore the concept.

New town employees approved

The Select Board voted 4-0 to approve the hiring of two new employees.

Assistant Town Manager Elaine Lazarus explained that Jedidiah “Jed” Fenneuff is being promoted to the new position of assistant water and sewer manager at the Department of Public Works. His role will consist of the daily management and regulatory compliance of the operation of water and sewer pumping stations. In addition, Fenneuff will oversee the sewer collection systems, water distribution system, water and sewer treatment systems, storage tanks and related facilities.

Fenneuff has worked for the town for 12 years as a water technician and has previous experience in Framingham and Putnam Pipe as well as in the Army National Guard. He holds a number of relevant licenses and has expertise in leak detection.

Human Resources generalist Kristin Merrill said there were three applicants for this position, which she said tends to be hard for municipalities to fill. Two candidates were interviewed, with Fenneuff selected for the job.

Maureen Sammon was recommended to become the new program coordinator/summer supervisor for the Parks & Recreation Department. She is replacing Jenny Hart, with the additional role of summer supervisor.

The position involves the creation and implementation of seasonal recreational programming for adults and youth, as well as some administrative functions.

Sammon previously worked for the city of Peabody for more than eight years as its outdoor education coordinator. She also served as the outdoor education director for the MetroWest Family YMCA for nine years. Sammon has a bachelor’s degree in environmental sciences.

According to Lazarus, Sammon’s references described her as being able to multitask, demonstrating good communication skills and having “a Zen-like calm.”

Director Jon Lewitus said he has been excited to fill this position since he assumed his role. Her background in creating programming aligns with his goals for the department.

Main Street crosswalks painted

Khumalo said that thanks to community outreach about safety modifications needed for the Main Street Corridor Project, the major crosswalks have been painted and infrastructure has been installed. The flashing beacons have not yet been activated.

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