WAYLAND, MASS. (WHDH) -

Could your town’s water be contaminated with PFAS? If you haven’t heard about these dangerous chemicals, you will soon. 

7 Investigates reveals many local communities are now discovering the pollutants in their water. Hank Phillippi Ryan has the story.  

Expectant mom Jessica got some unexpected and unsettling news. 

Her town’s drinking water is contaminated. 

“This is something that did come as a big shock to me,” Jessica said.     

Jessica lives in Wayland.  

That community and dozens of others in Massachusetts are discovering dangerous chemicals in their public water supply.     

The chemicals are called “per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances” or PFAS. 

They are linked to thyroid, liver, and kidney problems and also cancer.       

They can be very dangerous for pregnant women and their unborn babies. 

“This is a massive public health threat. These are man-made chemicals that have been pumped out into our environment for over 70 years that are incredibly toxic,”  environmental attorney Robert Bilott said. His ground-breaking research helped reveal the dangers of PFAS.   

The recent movie “Dark Waters” dramatizes his years of relentless legal work to uncover the problem of PFAS in West Virginia. 

Actor Mark Ruffalo played Bilott

Some manufacturers still use PFAS to make all kinds of things like non-stick cookware, waterproof jackets, and firefighting foam. 

When companies dispose of PFAS or when products containing PFAS end up in landfills the chemicals can get into drinking water. 

“The smallest amounts in our water as we drink it every day builds up to levels that are incredibly concerning to the scientists and regulators that are looking at this now,” Bilott said. 

Massachusetts just started requiring all public water suppliers to test for PFAS. If communities find elevated levels, they must pay to remove the chemicals. And that’s expensive.   

To make the town’s drinking water safe again, Wayland may install new treatment systems or tap into another water supply.  

Either plan will cost the town millions of dollars.    

Right now, the town is supplying bottled water for infants, pregnant women, and people 

who have compromised immune systems. 

There are elevated PFAS in the water in Easton too. 

Town officials are considering building new water treatment plants but that will cost nearly 10-million dollars 

This is going to be a big issue in water that people are hearing about and learning about,” Connor Read, Easton’s Town Administrator said. 

In the meantime, residents need to learn how to protect themselves. 

Experts say boiling the water actually makes the chemicals more dangerous. 

Jessica’s only drinking bottled water now. And she’s installing a water filtration system in her home. 

“Having this scare in our own community affecting me while I’m pregnant is something that I never imagined,” Jessica. 

For more information about PFAS and how to protect yourself check out the following links:

EPA:

https://www.epa.gov/pfas/basic-information-pfas

Massachusetts DEP:

https://www.mass.gov/info-details/per-and-polyfluoroalkyl-substances-pfas

  • $4,985,101 in grants has been given to 26 Public Water Suppliers with PFAS6 contamination in their water supplies. The PFAS Treatment Grants will pay for design and engineering of treatment systems to address the PFAS6 contamination and provide safe drinking water to the users.  These funds can also be used to reimburse for eligible work that has already been undertaken by affected communities. See the MassDEP storymap (tab 6) for the list of grant recipients and the projects.

https://www.mass.gov/info-details/per-and-polyfluoroalkyl-substances-pfas#pfas-detected-in-drinking-water-supplies-in-massachusetts-

  • MassDEP has made PFAS-reducing drinking water projects a priority in the 2021 State Revolving Fund (SRF) Loan Program. MassDEP and the Clean Water Trust also provides 0% interest loans for construction projects to address PFAS contamination through the Drinking Water State Revolving Loan Fund. https://www.mass.gov/state-revolving-fund-srf-loan-program   

  • The Baker-Polito Administration also provided funding for one free round of PFAS sampling in both public water supplies and selected private wells to assist in characterizing PFAS levels in the Commonwealth. There are approximately 1,600 Public Water Systems in the Commonwealth. To date, 212 of the approximately 458 Community Public Water Suppliers required to sample have signed up for the free sampling program. See the MassDEP storymap for more information.

https://www.mass.gov/info-details/per-and-polyfluoroalkyl-substances-pfas#pfas-detected-in-drinking-water-supplies-in-massachusetts-

  • A new grant program is also under development to pay for emergency measures taken to provide safe drinking water once a PFAS6 detection occurs. This program will provide funds or reimbursement for the purchase of bottled water, establishment of an interconnection to an alternate water supply, and any other immediate actions taken to provide safe drinking water. This new grant program is expected to be announced in next month or so.

Easton and other local communities filed a lawsuit against several companies that made the chemicals demanding they help pay for the cleanup.

Attorney Robert Bilott’s book Exposure has more on the history of PFAS exposure in the U.S.

Watch Hank’s interview with Bilott:

 

7 Investigates learned about this story from a viewer’s tip. If you have a story idea, please email Tell7@whdh.com 

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