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Silent Spring Study Finds Nearly Half of Private Wells Tested Positive for PFAS

Sarah Mizes-Tan
Laurel Schaider of the Silent Spring Institute presents the group's findings on the first half of their study about PFAS on Cape Cod.

The Silent Spring Institute held community meetings in Barnstable and Yarmouth on Wednesday to announce the completion of the first phase of a study that’s been examining the effects of PFAS in private wells around Cape Cod. 

High levels of PFAS consumption by humans has been linked to increasing risk for liver disease and cancer. PFAS, also known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, are typically found in groundwater contaminants such as firefighting foam. 

The Institute has been testing private wells across the Cape since last winter, and after testing a total of 101 private wells, the group found PFAS and PFAS-related compounds in 48 percent of tested wells, with the highest number of PFAS-contaminated wells in the Hyannis region and near Joint Base Cape Cod. The study found that much of the contamination has been coming from contamination from fire fighting foams, but it also suggested there might be a link between PFAS contamination and nitrate levels in wells.

Researcher Alyson McCann said the Cape’s geography makes it particularly affected by water quality issues.

"Our focus on Cape Cod is for several reasons, one is that on Cape Cod, there's a vulnerable sole source aquifer," McCann said. "We found contamination from firefighting foams, contamination of both public and private drinking water wells." 

Researcher Laurel Schaider said the study will continue in sevreal parts.  "Now that we've reported back to our individual participants, we want to step back and look spatially at the patterns of the PFAS levels that we've found and consider whether other sources might be contributors: landfills, firestations and other fire training areas," Schaider said. 

The group is now soliciting volunteers for the second phase of its study, including looking to test an additional 150 wells. Silent Spring will also be looking to test children in the next yeart o see how exposure to PFAS may effect their immune systems.