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PFAS Chemicals Found in Water on Pilgrim Nuclear Property

Google Earth view of Pilgrim Nuclear property

Water sampling at the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station has detected PFAS chemicals at levels that exceed the state drinking-water standard.

Matt Daly, of environmental consulting company ERM, reported the results Monday to the state advisory panel monitoring the decommissioning of Pilgrim, which closed in 2019.

Daly said two monitoring wells showed PFAS levels at about 37 and 32 nanograms per liter.

“So, just kind of slightly above that drinking water standard,” he said.

The state standard is 20 nanograms per liter, also known as parts per trillion.

Daly said there are no drinking-water wells in the immediate area.

One of the monitoring wells with PFAS is the one nearest the intake canal for the plant. Daly said several other wells are very close by, and they did not have PFAS levels above the state standard.

PFAS are a group of so-called “forever chemicals,” which can build up in the human body and the environment and are linked to health problems.

They have been detected in Cape Cod watersheds at 400 parts per trillion.

PFAS can be found in firefighting foam and household products, such as nonstick cookware and stain-repellent fabric. They’re associated with various health problems, including elevated cholesterol, low birth weight, immune system effects, and cancer.

Lead and other metals exceeding state standards were also found at Pilgrim, but Daly said the sampling technique causes sediment to become suspended in the water, which likely elevated the results for metals.

The findings are part of an amended site assessment expected to be submitted to the state by the end of the week.

In other news from the Nuclear Decommissioning Citizens’ Advisory Panel, a security expert who is a member of the panel told the group that security is tight at the above-ground storage area for spent nuclear fuel.

Rich Grassie, who lives in Plymouth, has a background designing security for nuclear, chemical, and biological sites.

In the past, he said, he’s been asked to break into facilities to test their security, but he wouldn’t want to do that at Pilgrim.

“In ... San Diego, I was able to blow by the guards without any problem whatsoever,” he said. “But I want to preface that comment with, if you ever asked me to do this at the Pilgrim [fuel storage area], I will refuse. It's too dangerous. It's a very secure site — very.”

Grassie said the perception among some people in the community that the site is not secure is an opinion he considers misinformed.

He said the level of security there is consistent with requirements for nuclear storage.

Jennette Barnes is a reporter and producer. Named a Master Reporter by the New England Society of News Editors, she brings more than 20 years of news experience to CAI.