BOSTON – State Re. John Velis (D – Westfield) co-hosted a briefing Monday with three of his colleagues on the legislative response to PFAS contamination across the Commonwealth.
“As the representative from one of the worst affected areas of Massachusetts, I feel like it is part of my job to help raise awareness among the rest of the legislature. As more and more cities and towns are discovering PFAS in their water, I think that my colleagues can learn from Westfield’s experience and join me in advocating for our communities at the state-level,” said Velis.
Also present at the briefing was Marty Suuberg, commissioner of the Department of Environmental Protection, State Fire Marshal Peter Ostroskey, and representatives from the Massachusetts National Guard.
“It was great to see buy-in and engagement from the Department of Fire Services and the National Guard. The most polluted sites in Massachusetts, like Westfield, are mostly due to the use of certain firefighting foams at military bases, so having them there was certainly a sign that we are heading in the right direction on that front,” Velis said.
During the briefing, Velis was able to share Westfield’s experience with PFAS contamination with all those present and hear similar stories from his colleagues who represent other affected areas like Cape Cod and the towns around Fort Devens.
Velis concluded, “On one hand, it was upsetting to hear about the other towns that are also going through this crisis, but it was also heartening to know that Westfield is not alone and that there are other members of the legislature who are working towards a legislative response to PFAS. This is obviously an issue front and center in the minds of Westfield’s residents and therefore, at the forefront of my agenda, as well.”
Just this year, RVelis has co-founded the PFAS caucus in the state legislature with state Sen. Donald F. Humason Jr. to bring together legislators from affected communities and others who are interested in addressing this growing environmental and public health crisis. To date, the caucus has 12 members but is expected to grow in the coming months.