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The Baker-Polito administration on Sept. 24 announced final regulations establishing a maximum contaminant level for PFAS compounds detected in drinking water.
The enforceable standards for public drinking water systems impacted by per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) – limited to 20 parts per trillion for the sum of six compounds – are largely aligned with the draft regulations the administration filed last December, on which the MMA commented.
PFAS, known as “forever chemicals,” are a class of manmade chemical compounds considered hazardous to public and environmental health. PFAS have been used since the 1950s in the manufacture of stain-resistant, water-resistant, and non-stick coatings and common consumer products such as food packaging, outdoor clothing, carpets, leather goods, ski and snowboard waxes, and more. The chemicals are also found in firefighting foam and other fire retardants, and have been detected in water and soil sources at or near several military bases and airports in Massachusetts.
The new regulations require public water suppliers to test for the six compounds, called PFAS6, and to take remedial actions when amounts exceed the limit. According to the administration, using the sum of six compounds provides for a higher degree of protection against the harmful effects of the chemicals.
There are currently no federal standards for PFAS in drinking water.
The regulations detail the actions that public water suppliers must take when the limit is exceeded, as well as requirements for public notice. Large public water suppliers (serving a population of 50,000 or more) will begin their initial required PFAS6 tests on Jan. 1, 2021. Medium suppliers (serving 10,000-50,000) will begin on April 1, 2021, and small suppliers (below 10,000) will begin on Oct. 1, 2021.
Environmental Protection Commissioner Martin Suuberg said the PFAS standard is based on his department’s “continual review of emerging scientific data for environmental and water quality standards,” and is subject to change as a result of new scientific information.
PFAS remediation grants
The administration announced more than $1.9 million in grants to 10 public water systems to support their effects to address PFAS contamination and to design treatment systems to eliminate it in drinking water. Receiving grants were water systems for Acton, Ayer, Barnstable/Cummaquid, Barnstable/Hyannis, Devens, Easton, Hudson, Millbury, Tri Town Water Board (Braintree, Holbrook and Randolph), and Westfield.
Rep. Kate Hogan, a sponsor of legislation to establish a PFAS task force, applauded the news.
“In addition to passing smart regulations to protect citizens, my colleagues in the Legislature and at MassDEP are providing funding so that our communities can test regularly and conduct plans, studies, pump tests, engineering, and design necessary to remove PFAS from water systems. We’ve also designated funds to reimburse towns that have already expended funds to address elevated levels of PFAS.”
A fiscal 2019 closeout budget enacted last December included a $10.65 million transfer to the Clean Water Trust to assist in the remediation of PFAS contamination in local water systems and $9.05 million for the State Revolving Fund program to help finance improvements to local water systems. Another $4.2 million was appropriated to help cities and towns test for local drinking water contamination related to PFAS.
According to the MassDEP, to date, 87 select private wells and 34 public water systems have received free PFAS6 testing, and 42 more public water systems are in the process of being tested.