© 2024
Local NPR for the Cape, Coast & Islands 90.1 91.1 94.3
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Private well sampling finds PFAS throughout Cape, Coast, Islands

Screenshot of the state's testing map.
Screenshot of the state's testing map.

Early results of an investigation for PFAS in private wells across Massachusetts found detectable levels of the emerging contaminate from Truro to Martha’s Vineyard, Nantucket, and the South Coast.

The sampling was part of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection and UMass Amherst study launched last year.

Some private wells had detections of the so-called forever chemical over state drinking water standards.

The only private well on the Vineyard, in West Tisbury, involved in the state testing program had a level twice the state standard.

West Tisbury health agent Omar Johnson says that the homeowner has been advised to install a filter.

Johnson says it’s still unclear where the source of the contamination may be coming from, but he has since advised others in the neighborhood to get their water sampled through the state program.

"Between the state's efforts and my efforts to inform the community, I think we’ll figure out the extent of what this may be, and we’ll figure out if this is of great concern," Johnson told CAI.

The health agent says that the contaminant could be coming from the fire station on Edgartown Road, and he is coordinating with the department to sample their water for PFAS.

He says that ultimately, it's the state's responsibility to find the source of the contamination, but he is helping in the effort.

Elsewhere in the study, two homes on Nantucket had levels over the state drinking water standard.

Detectable levels of the contaminant were also found in private wells in Westport, Truro and Wellfleet – the only other towns in the region also involved in the state sampling program.

In Westport, 10 of 25 private wells had detectable levels of PFAS, and one of those was over the state standard.

It's unclear at this point where the contamination may have originated. The town's health director did not immediately respond for comment.

The state program has focused on 84 towns where more than half of the residents rely on private wells. An estimated 20–40 wells will be selected within each town for the sampling. The most recent results will eventually be included in a final report issued by MassDEP.

Ongoing results are available for public viewing on a state website and map, here.

High exposure of PFAS chemicals has been linked to reproductive problems, weakened immunity, diabetes, cancer, and even decreased vaccine effectiveness. They can be found in nonstick cookware, fire-retardant foams, water-resistant rugs, and make-up.

Several public water systems have had to shut down public wells because of the presence of the contaminant.

Sam Houghton left CAI in February, 2023, to become News Editor at the Martha's Vineyard Times.
He worked at CAI since the summer of 2017. Before that, he worked at the Falmouth Enterprise, where he covered local politics.