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Cape Cod establishes multi-million dollar PFAS stabilization fund

The red circles indicate where PFAS exceeded state standards in groundwater samples
Courtesy Barnstable County
The red circles indicate where PFAS exceeded state standards in groundwater samples

Barnstable County has set aside $7.8 million to clean up per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in groundwater stemming from the former Barnstable Fire and Rescue Training Academy.

PFAS are a group of widely-used chemicals that have been linked to serious health impacts.

The firefighting foam used at the fire training academy for nearly four decades contained PFAS, sometimes referred to as “forever chemicals,” because of how long they stay in the environment. As a result of the long-term use of the foam, PFAS polluted groundwater near the academy.

To help fund the cleanup, the county commission established a PFAS stabilization fund, Barnstable County administrator Beth Albert said.

“The intent is to be used for future costs of PFAS remediation at this site,” she said. “We anticipate using the funds to pay for future annual costs for operation and maintenance.”

Barnstable County Commissioners allocated the money this past month after first announcing plans to establish a PFAS stabilization fund in January. The initial money transfer was also approved by the assembly of delegates.

The county could add more money to the stabilization fund later on, Albert said.

“There may need to be additional appropriations in the future,” she said. “When we look at all the county’s liabilities, we know PFAS is a big liability, and so starting the stabilization fund and funding it with $7.8 million is a step in the direction of meeting our liabilities.”

County commissioners also gave the go-ahead for the county to apply for even more cleanup funds in the form of a loan from the Massachusetts Clean Water Trust, Albert said.

“There is going to need to be either improvement of our current groundwater system, or some other remediation efforts,” she said. “I can’t tell you exactly what that system is going to be today because they’re still working on that.”

Albert says specific plans for how this money will be used will come toward the end of this year.

Gilda Geist is a reporter, a producer on Morning Edition, and the local host of Saturday Weekend Edition.