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Chatham to build new wells amid PFAS contamination

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Channel 18 - Chatham, MA
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Chatham Town Meeting

Chatham voters approved nearly 6 million dollars at a Special Town Meeting Sunday to upgrade the town's water system. Three articles passed unanimously in about 15 minutes.

The funding includes building two new wells, and treating other wells that have been polluted with PFAS, also known as forever chemicals.

The upgrades were needed after town officials said that water pressure dipped to concerning levels this summer, amid Chatham's drought and while addressing contamination concerns.

Chatham Natural Resources director Robert Duncanson tried to answer concerns about where the contamination is coming from at Sunday's meeting. One resident questioned if fertilizer may be the cause.

"Every septic system in the community is a problem," Duncanson. "Whether or not it's one particular source such as firefighting foam or fertilizer is a predominant source, that we don't know yet."

The town is currently seeking bids from companies to find the source of contamination.

PFAS has been found in nonstick cookware, fire-retardant foams, water-resistant rugs, and makeup.

High exposure of PFAS chemicals has been linked to reproductive problems, weakened immunity, diabetes, and cancer.

Chatham fire chief David DePasquale also assured residents that his firefighters use PFAS-free foams during training and at fire responses.

Residents also questioned what would be done with the so-called forever chemicals once treated in the local wells. A consultant to the town said that they will be incinerated at high temperatures off-site.

"Ladies and gentleman, you are to be commended. There was some discussion that we might not have a quorum. I had absolutely no doubt." said town moderator, William Litchfield, at the conclusion of the special meeting. "Because there's one thing I do know and appreciate and that is the deep, civic commitment of the Town of Chatham voters and citizens. Thank you all for coming."