The Upper Cape is home to two of Cape Cod’s five sites contaminated by chemicals in the PFAS family.
Already, millions of dollars have been spent acting on a health advisory issued by the Environmental Protection Agency in 2016, which warned of health risks associated with two chemicals in the PFAS family, PFOA and PFOS.
The groundwater affected by the two contamination sites—one on Joint Base Cape Cod, the other at the Otis Rotary in Bourne—may come under increased scrutiny as the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection proposes tightening regulations on PFAS contamination.
In 2017, 93 homes at Lakeside Estates in Mashpee had to be connected to the town’s public water supply after it was discovered that the residences’ private wells contained PFOA and PFOS contamination above the 70 parts-per-trillion threshold set by the EPA health advisory.
The regulatory changes proposed by the DEP would set a stricter threshold for groundwater contamination and include all chemicals in the PFAS family, not just PFOA and PFOS.
The DEP’s draft cleanup rules, which would set the PFAS contamination threshold at 20 parts per trillion, “are designed to be protective of public health,” Joseph Ferson, a spokesman from the DEP said in an email.
The contamination at Lakeside Estates was detected by the Air Force as Joint Base Cape Cod investigated PFOA and PFOS contamination caused by firefighting foam used at a fire training facility located on the base in the 1970s.
A municipal well in Mashpee also was shut off for several months in 2018 due to PFAS contamination levels above the EPA’s advised threshold. It was eventually reopened after being fitted with a filter system.
Four private wells in Pocasset also showed dangerous levels of PFOA and PFOS contamination in 2018. Contamination may have been associated with firefighting foam used to put out two fires at the Otis Rotary.
Douglas C. Karson, the community involvement leader with the joint base’s engineer center, said the base is continuing to “work on identifying the extent of groundwater contamination” caused by firefighting foam.
It is unclear whether the regulatory changes proposed by the DEP will change the base’s course of action concerning PFAS condemnation assessment and cleanup.
Drinking water is not the only source of human exposure to PFAS. A significant portion of human exposure to PFAS comes through consumer products and food, the DEP website says.