The Town of Topsfield is very pleased to announce the Water Department has received a grant from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in the amount of $190,000 to evaluate potential removal technologies for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). The funds will be used to pilot test several PFAS removal processes in our water treatment plant. The study will generate valuable information that is needed for the planning and design of possible plant modifications and allow the Town to make informed decisions concerning the costs and benefits of PFAS removal.
PFAS are a wide range of man-made chemicals commonly found in fire retardants, firefighting foams, stain resistant fabrics, waterproof clothing, takeout food containers, and a multitude of other products. The compounds, of which there are thousands, have been in use for decades and are commonly referred to as "forever chemicals" because they are very stable and do not biodegrade in the environment. The chemical properties that make this class of compounds so useful and durable also causes them to accumulate in our bodies and are suspected of causing a wide array of health issues. The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection recently promulgated regulations limiting the amount of six PFAS compounds (PFAS6) in drinking water. The United States Environmental Protection Agency is planning further rounds of nation-wide testing for PFAS to determine if a federal regulation is needed. It is quite possible that additional regulations will be created and existing ones strengthened as more studies regarding the health effects of PFAS become available.
PFAS was first detected in our water during the fall of 2019. We have been testing our water on a monthly basis since July 2020 and some of the results have exceeded Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection's maximum contaminant level (MCL) of 20 parts per trillion of PFAS6. Although some of the tests have exceeded the MCL, it has not resulted in a violation because the regulations are based on a quarterly average. The highest average to date of 18.6 parts per trillion was from October through December 2020. Our testing results are available at https://www.topsfieldpublicworks.org/apps/watertesting/.