Scam alert on city website clarified

WESTFIELD – Last week, the City of Westfield posted an alert on the city website from the Department of Public Works saying they had received calls of individuals trying to get into residential homes, claiming to be from the DPW.
“If they do not provide City credentials, are wearing a City-issued uniform, and are driving a City issue vehicle, we advise that you do not let them onto your property,” the notice read, also advising people who are unsure to contact the DPW at 413-572-6226.
DPW Director David Billips said the department had received several complaints before posting the notice. He said the unidentified caller(s) requested access to people’s homes to test their water.
The DPW also notified the police department about the calls.
Simultaneously, individuals from the Center for Disease Control’s Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) had been canvassing the north end of town, attempting to reach people who had received a letter about blood and urine sampling for a PFAS exposure assessment.
This testing was explained in a community informational meeting in July. Letters were sent out following the meeting to a sample group for testing, and residents who were visited by the canvassers had already received the letter.
Billips said since the calls made in the name of the DPW asking for access for water sampling did not come from the city, he had no choice but to issue the alert. He said he stands by that decision.
“It worked exactly like it’s supposed to,” said Mayor Brian P. Sullivan, who said he was out of town when these events occurred. He said that alerts are posted regularly on the city website.
Sullivan said because the callers who were supposedly from the DPW came at the same time that the ATSDR canvassers were making another attempt to reach people, some people took it as the city trying to stop the testing from happening.
“That couldn’t be further from the truth,” he said, adding that the city communicated early on with the CDC to partner with them to do the PFAS exposure assessment in Westfield, one of seven cities chosen for the assessment. He said that he has been in communication with the ATSDR throughout the process and had a conference call with them this past Tuesday.
A representative from the ATSDR said that blood testing will begin next Wednesday (Sept. 4), and the agency’s target seeking 395 samples has been met. “All invitations have gone out. Everyone randomly selected has been informed,” the representative said.
Regarding the scam alert that is posted on the city website, Mayor Sullivan said that residents were getting phone calls from individuals saying they were from the DPW and wanting to test the water.
“The city would never do that without proper notification,” Sullivan said.

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