The Baker-Polito administration today announced $2 million in new grant funding to help public water systems address elevated levels of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in their drinking water.

The new Interim PFAS6 Response Grant Program, to be administered by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, will provide funding to help offset the cost of initial responses implemented by water suppliers when “PFAS6” (the sum of six per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) exceeds the state standard of 20 parts-per-trillion (ppt).

“PFAS contamination poses a significant risk to public health, so it is imperative that public water suppliers address elevated PFAS levels in a timely manner,” said Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Kathleen Theoharides.

Large public water supplies, those serving a population of 50,000 or more, were required to begin a PFAS6 testing program as of Jan. 1, 2021. Public water supplies serving populations between 10,000 and 50,000 began initial tests on April 1, and those serving a population of less than 10,000 will begin testing on Oct. 1.

“When [PFAS] are found, the Commonwealth is working closely with them to quickly assess the threat and address it,” said MassDEP Commissioner Martin Suuberg. “I urge our public water systems to apply for these funds, which can cover costs for critical short-term measures in the event of PFAS6 contamination.”

The MassDEP anticipates offering three rounds of funding through the program. Applications for the first round are due on July 8.

Public water supply systems can apply for funds to purchase and distribute bottled water, install water vending machines, purchase water and/or establish interconnections to alternative water sources, or take any other immediate action to provide safe drinking water to water users affected by PFAS.

To assist communities that have already expended funds to address elevated levels of PFAS, reimbursement will be available for eligible costs.

This funding is in addition to the $28.4 million secured by the administration in two supplemental budgets for water infrastructure and PFAS testing. Through the supplemental budget, $20 million was appropriated to the Commonwealth’s Clean Water Trust, providing financing that can be used by communities to address contamination issues.

More than $8.4 million of this funding supports a statewide sampling program for public water supplies and private wells, including a grant program to support design of PFAS treatment. Statewide testing of drinking water for PFAS is providing the data to support the MassDEP’s strategy for treatment and mitigation of this emerging contaminant.

In September 2020, the administration announced the first round of grants to support design of PFAS treatment, awarding $1.9 million to 10 public water supply systems. The administration announced a second round in March 2021, awarding $3 million to 17 public water supply systems.

PFAS compounds are a family of chemicals widely used since the 1950s to manufacture common consumer products and in some legacy fire-fighting foams. Drinking water may become contaminated if PFAS deposited onto the soil seeps into groundwater or surface water.

Last October, the administration established a protective standard of 20 ppt for PFAS in drinking water and required water systems to regularly test for the contaminants. There are currently no federal PFAS standards for drinking water.

The Water Resources Grants & Financial Assistance web page has additional information on the Interim PFAS6 Response Grant Program.