Topsfield, Middleton and Danvers among recipients of state grants to improve public water supply.

Thursday March 25, 2021

BOSTON – The Baker-Polito Administration today announced that it has awarded $3 million in grants to 17 public water supply systems to support efforts to address elevated levels of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in drinking water. The grants were awarded to water systems serving Abington and Rockland, Cambridge, Chelmsford, Cohasset, Danvers and Middleton, Dudley, Hopedale, Littleton, Mansfield and Foxborough, Millis, Natick, North Attleborough, Sudbury, Topsfield, Westborough, Westfield, and Woburn for expenses related to the design and planning of treatment systems that protect drinking water against PFAS.

“PFAS compounds present a significant risk to public health, and these grants will help public water suppliers as they perform the critical work necessary to protect the health and safety of their consumers,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “Our Administration is proud to build on our efforts to address PFAS across the Commonwealth by providing this assistance to communities dealing with contamination.”

“Cities and towns work hard to protect local water resources, and these grants provide much-needed capital to support the design and planning of essential water treatment systems,” said Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito. “As municipalities work to address PFAS contamination, our Administration will support these efforts and help to ensure that drinking water throughout Massachusetts is safe, clean and healthy.”

The grants were funded as part of $8.4 million made available as part of $28.4 million secured by the Baker-Polito 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 the new funding supports a statewide sampling program for public water supplies and private wells, including this grant program. Conducting statewide testing of drinking water for PFAS will provide the data to support the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection’s (MassDEP) strategy for treatment and mitigation of this emerging contaminant. In September 2020, the Administration announced the first round of grants, awarding $1.9 million to 10 public water supply systems.

PFAS compounds are a family of chemicals widely used since the 1950s to manufacture common consumer products and used in some legacy fire-fighting foams. Drinking water may become contaminated if PFAS deposited onto the soil seeps into groundwater or surface water. PFAS have been linked to a variety of health risks, particularly in women who are pregnant or nursing, and in infants. In October, the Baker-Polito Administration established a protective standard of 20 parts-per-trillion (ppt) for PFAS in drinking water and required water systems to regularly test for the contaminants.

“PFAS contamination is harmful to the environment and public health, and we are proud to support local communities in taking aggressive action to test and address it quickly,” said Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Kathleen Theoharides. “By providing this funding, we are working closely with water suppliers to help them develop the necessary treatment systems that will eliminate these compounds and protect their drinking water.”

“We have partnered with public water suppliers to develop treatment for PFAS so that clean, safe drinking water is available for residents across the Commonwealth,” said MassDEP Commissioner Martin Suuberg. “As we continue to learn more about the impacts PFAS has on human health, it is important that we collaborate with communities on the front lines of this effort to protect our water resources.”

The grants provide funding to water suppliers for the necessary planning, studies, pump tests, and engineering and design work necessary to remove PFAS contamination from water systems. To assist communities that have already expended funds to address elevated levels of PFAS, many of the awards reimburse eligible costs already expended.

The awarded water supply systems are:

• Abington & Rockland Joint Water Works – $199,870 for reimbursement and new planning and design.

• Cambridge Water Department – $115,680 for reimbursement and new planning and design.

• Chelmsford Water District – $199,996 for planning and design.

• Town of Cohasset – $182,500 for planning and design.

• Danvers Water Division (Danvers and Middleton) – $200,000 reimbursement for completed planning and design.

• Dudley Water Department – $178,500 for planning and design.

• Hopedale Water & Sewer Department – $200,000 for planning and design.

• Littleton Water Department – $200,000 for planning and design.

• Town of Mansfield (Mansfield and Foxborough) – $200,000, for reimbursement and planning and design.

• Millis DPW – $197,990 for planning and design.

• Town of Natick – $135,800 for reimbursement and new planning and design.

• Town of North Attleborough – $200,000 for planning and design.

• Sudbury Water District – $111,169 for planning and design.

• Topsfield Water Department – $190,000 for planning and design.

• Westborough DPW – $200,000 for planning and design.

• Westfield DPW-Water Division – $180,495 for reimbursement for completed planning and design.

• Woburn Water Department – $108,000 for planning and design.

“Combating water pollution is essential to advancing environmental justice, safeguarding public health, and securing a sustainable and healthy future for all here in Massachusetts,” said State Senator Becca Rausch (D-Needham), Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on the Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture. “These PFAS design grants will provide critical financial and technical support to municipalities across our Commonwealth, and I look forward to seeing these tools and resources put to good use safeguarding Bay Staters from contamination in public water supplies.

“PFAS chemicals in water supplies continue to be a persistent threat to our public health and safety, and the Legislature and administration’s work together to fund sampling and decontamination efforts is essential to keeping our drinking water clean and safe,” said State Representative Carolyn Dykema (D-Holliston), House Chair of the Joint Committee on the Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture. “I’m pleased that Westborough will receive the funding needed to continue addressing these challenges on the local level.” 

The new drinking water standard for PFAS is 20 ppt for the sum of six PFAS compounds, called “PFAS6.” The rule requires public water suppliers to test for PAFS6 and act when there is a detection above the limit. In using the sum of six PFAS compounds, these standards provide a higher degree of protection, particularly for sensitive subgroups including pregnant women, nursing mothers and infants. There are currently no federal PFAS standards for drinking water.

All community public water systems are required to test for PFAS6. Large public water supplies, those serving a population of 50,000 or more, were required to begin their initial PFAS6 tests as of January 1, 2021. Public water supplies serving populations between 10,000 and 50,000 will begin initial tests April 1, 2021, and those serving a population of less than 10,000 will begin testing October 1, 2021.

MassDEP is responsible for ensuring clean air and water, safe management and recycling of solid and hazardous wastes, timely cleanup of hazardous waste sites and spills and the preservation of wetlands and coastal resources.

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