The Wellesley Board of Public Works is hosting a public forum on Thursday, December 16, 2021 to discuss Per- and PolyFluoroAlkyl Substances (PFAS) in its water system. The forum will take place from 7:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. via Zoom. Participants may register at www.wellesleyma.gov/pfasforum PFAS are a group of numerous human-made chemicals that were used since the 1950's in consumer products. These chemicals do not break down and studies have shown that long term exposure may impact public health.
Elevated levels of PFAS were detected in Wellesley's water system earlier this year. Addressing this problem will require several million dollars of new expenditures. The Board of Public Works welcomes input form the community to help determine next steps. The forum will include representatives from the Department of Public Works, Health Department, Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), and the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA). Town consultants Environmental Partners and Weston & Sampson will be in attendance. The agenda includes a review of PFAS, the recently adopted regulatory standard for PFAS in our drinking water, an overview of the Town’s drinking water system, actions taken so far as well as planned temporary actions, and a discussion of potential long-term options to address this issue. The public can ask questions and provide input to help the Town with plans for addressing this challenge going forward.
For questions or additional information, please contact DPW Director David Cohen, at 781-235-7600 x3300 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Additional PFAS information is available on the PFAS webpages on the Town of Wellesley website.
What will Wellesley do about PFAS in our water? What is the most prudent course of action?
This is a good time to educate yourself about where the water that runs throughout your home -- from your kitchen tap to outdoor hoses -- originates. Currently, Wellesley’s municipal water supply comes from 10 town wells and from the regional Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA). There are four wells near Morses Pond which represent about half of the water the town uses.
Last spring, during mandated testing, Wellesley Department of Public Works (DPW) found that our Morses Pond well exceeded the Department of Environmental Protection (EPA) maximum allowable levels of per- and polyfluorinated alkyl substances (PFAS). Wellesley’s DPW swiftly moved to turn off that source and worked with a consultant to shape a plan for short- and long-term water safety.
Why the concern? PFAS is also known as “forever chemicals” because they break down very slowly and are linked to cancer, kidney and liver problems, birth defects, and more.
This week, Wellesley Special Town Meeting will debate and vote on whether the DPW can borrow $1.5 million through the Water Enterprise Fund for an interim solution and $5.3 million for a long-term solution to address the PFAS issue at the Morses Pond Water Treatment Plant. The ARTICLE: 6, MOTION: 1 is on page 8 here. These funds would be allocated to a specific solution. Here is the dilemma:
Some residents in town (an infectious disease physician, PhD organic chemist, PhD and pesticide expert among others) have questioned whether the proposed granular activated carbon remediation system will sufficiently remediate all pollutants and have urged the town to start converting toward a cleaner water supply from the MWRA, which is sourced from the protected Quabbin Reservoir. One strong argument for this approach is that Welleslley's aquifer is surrounded by dense development and roadways adding to our groundwater contamination. However, it would take at least 3 years to add a second connection and increase present connectivity to the MWRA.
What would we do in the meantime?
The DPW has been thoughtful about this issue and has noted reasons why it may be prudent to continue to have more than one source of water. They also have noted the supply constraints caused by having the Morses Pond well offline, and expressed those constraints as part of the desire and goal to bring the Morses Pond well back on line using the interim solution noted above.
Some suggest waiting until the next Town Meeting to allow time for more public discourse, and recommendations from State and Federal officials (the State is due to come out with comments before the end of the year, and the EPA is working to set enforceable drinking water limits and will work to regulate PFAS).
One concern about waiting to decide on this issue is it may create a time lag on implementation of a solution, and possibly put Wellesley further back in the line as other towns and cities move quickly to remediate their water supplies.
To learn more about PFAS read here from the EPA and watch this video clip from the Massachusetts Municipal Association (MMA). Be mindful that this is not just a cost issue (cost of MWRA water vs. cost of Wellesley’s water) but a health and safety issue.
Actions for you:
Sustainable Wellesley encourages sustainable actions to protect our climate; reduce pollution of air, land and water; preserve biodiversity; minimize waste; and ensure environmental justice.