Westborough officials say PFAS detection in offline wells pose no danger

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WestboroughBy Susan Gonsalves, Contributing Writer

Westborough – Westborough hopes to obtain grant funds to one day help treat two wells following the detection of per-and poly perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) above the accepted limit.

The Chauncy Lake Well #2 and Indian Meadows Well have been offline for a few years and are not feeding into the water system, according to Department of Public Works Director Chris Payant, who addressed the Board of Selectmen Jan. 12.

He added that Westborough has sufficient sources of water and that the situation is “not a crisis and there is no potential to run out of water.”

Mary Duke Pigsley, regional director of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection’s central regional office, gave selectmen an overview of recent testing results.

She explained that PFAS are “toxic and persistent” and of particular danger to pregnant women, nursing mothers and infants and immune-compromised individuals. They pose a cancer risk.

A standard of less than 20 parts per trillion was set with the most sensitive populations in mind, she said.

The chemicals are used for things like textile treatments, paper coatings, waxes, hairsprays, and in aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF) used in firefighting, for example.

As a result, most Americans have been exposed to it at one time or another, Pigsley said.

Using bottled water to drink and cook and a home water treatment system are two ways to reduce potential exposure.

Pigsley noted that Westborough’s results from 2014-2015 showed no detection but that the reporting limits were different at the time. However, results from 2020 showed Chauncy Lake Well #2 having a level of 26.95 and Indian Meadows Well at 1,089.

Other wells, such as on Hopkinton Road and Morse, Otis and Fisher Streets had results well below 10. If they had higher detection levels, the town would revert to monthly sampling. Currently, the testing is done quarterly.

Westborough will continue with quarterly testing and with continued success can change to once every three years via a waiver.

Payant said the water department applied for a grant for a feasibility study on how to address and mitigate the problem. He said that there is no obvious source of the contamination such as a particular former manufacturing site.

He said that Chauncy Well #1 is also shut down because it operates together with #2. (It was also struck by lightning). If service elsewhere fails, Payant said the town still has ample capacity. He would, however, like to put #1 back online in the future.

Independent of the test result, Westborough Board of Selectmen Chair Shelby Marshall said Indian Meadow Well has already been offline because of high metal content.

 

 

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