Manchester to target ‘forever chemicals’ in drinking water | Local News

MANCHESTER-BY-THE-SEA – U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton told those gathered during a tour of the city's Gravelly Pond water treatment plant Monday afternoon that a lot of work needs to be done to clean up the local water supply.

Of concern is contamination from PFAS, so-called “perpetual” chemicals found in water supplies that can potentially lead to adverse health effects.

The city recently received a $959,752 federal grant to support its response to PFAS found in the water filtration system. The grant is part of the federal spending package approved by Congress earlier this month.

“Many communities in our district are moving forward,” said Moulton, D-Salem. “The good news is that we are ahead of the rest of the country. The bad news is that (PFAS) is there.”

Levels of PFAS in Manchester's drinking water are at maximum limits set by the state and above new thresholds proposed by the federal Environmental Protection Agency, he said.

The state's current maximum contamination limit is 20 parts per trillion (sum of six individual PFAS compounds), while the EPA proposed new limits of 4 ppt for two individual PFAS compounds (pfos and pfoa) and another factor for other PFAS compounds has.

Federal funding for Manchester will allow the city to test different systems and then develop the appropriate option to address PFAS in the city's water supply, Moulton said.

“The project will ensure residents have access to clean drinking water,” he said. “It’s part of the bigger picture.”

During Monday's visit, Public Works Director Chuck Dam gave Moulton and his staff a tour of the city's water filtration plant. The facility is located on Pipeline Road at Pine Street, near the intersection with Chebacco Road in Hamilton.

Moulton and Dam were joined by several city officials and select board members.

City Manager Gregory Federspiel said the city government was grateful for Moulton's help in raising the money for the project.

“The funding comes from the (Environmental Protection Agency) and will allow us to continue developing and testing filtration systems that will remove the unwanted chemicals from our drinking water,” he said.

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances are a group of industrial chemicals used in industry and consumer products since the 1940s. They are called “forever chemicals” because they can take decades to break down naturally.

Some scientific studies have shown that PFAS chemicals can lead to reduced fertility in pregnant women and developmental delays in children. The chemical has been linked to an increased risk of some cancers, including prostate, kidney and testicular cancer, and has been found to potentially reduce the body's immune system's ability to fight infections and negatively affect the response to certain vaccines , says the EPA.

PFAS have been found in drinking water, food, food packaging materials, personal care products, soil and water near landfills, and firefighting foam.

Consumer advocates are calling for tighter restrictions on so-called “forever” chemicals after the state Health Department issued an advisory earlier this month asking consumers not to buy or drink bottled water or fill containers at self-service vending machines operated by Simpson Spring Co .in Easton.

DEP officials say testing of the company's drinking water found levels of PFAS that were above the state standard.

The contamination is “alarming” but not a “surprise” given that state environmental testing has found PFAS contamination in public water systems in 96 of Massachusetts' 351 cities and towns, according to the Massachusetts Public Interest Research Group.

Stephen Hagan can be reached at 978-675-2708 or [email protected]. Statehouse News Service reporter Christian Wade contributed material for this article.

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