Southwick detects small amount of PFAS in Well 1

Well 2 sampling finds no detection of PFAS

SOUTHWICK- The Department of Public Works (DPW) conducted its first sampling of the town water supply to measure polyfluoroalkyl (PFAS) levels on March 9 as part of a Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection program.

Southwick DPW Director

DPW Director Randy Brown said during the April 1 Water Commission meeting that there was a small detect of PFAS below the maximum contaminant level (MCL) when the results came back Friday, March 26.

Brown said that they had tested the entry points for wells 1 and 2. In well 1, PFAS was detected at a 4.93 parts-per-trillion (PPT), well below the MCL of 21ppt. The samples taken from well 2 found no PFAS contamination whatsoever. 

Brown said that the DPW would follow up with confirmatory sampling next week as required by MassDEP standards. 

“Once we got the results last Friday, I asked the DEP what had to happen on our end, and they said nothing needed to happen,” said Brown, “There is no need for a public notice and  we can continue to use these wells.”

The DEP is now requiring that water supply systems be tested for PFAS contamination quarterly, which Southwick will begin doing in October according to Brown. 

PFAS substances are industrial compounds used in a significant number of products from clothing to furniture. They are commonly referred to as “forever chemicals” because they don’t seem to break down or decay in water or the environment, which could theoretically cause community health problems if there was PFAS in a large enough concentration in the water supply.

“We are not in the situation Westfield is in where they have to spend millions to treat PFAS,” said Brown.

The City of Westfield has had problems with significant PFAS contamination. It has largely been blamed on the use of firefighting foam at the Barnes Air National Guard base. Fire suppression foam that was commonly used to put out fires in airplane hangars contains significant amounts of PFAS, and may have leached into the water supply after it was deployed in Westfield. 

Brown said that one in five water systems that have started testing in Massachusetts have found PFAS levels above the MCL. 

He said that at this point there is no way to tell how any amount of PFAS ended up in Southwick water.

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