RAYNHAM – Over the weekend, residents in Raynham received a notice saying that the John P. Lynn Treatment Plant serving the Center Water District, one of two in Raynham, had elevated levels of PFAS.
PFAS are also referred to as so-called “forever chemicals” because they do not break down in water, oil, or heat. They have been used in consumer products for decades in items such as food packaging, clothing, and firefighting foam. In some communities, the chemicals are leaching into the ground water supply.
In 2016, the Environmental Protection Agency released guidance recommending a PFAS limit of 70 parts per trillion in drinking water. Since then, Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection started its own standard, saying PFAS levels should reach no more than 20 parts per trillion in public water supplies.
Just this year, the EPA released an advisory setting the health risk threshold for some PFAS at nearly zero.
According to MassDEP, studies in lab animals and people suggest that exposure to elevated levels of PFAS may cause developmental effects in babies during pregnancy and in breast fed infants. PFAS may also cause thyroid, liver, kidney, hormone, and immune system issues. Some studies also suggest that there is an increased risk of cancer.
Jon Chase, the Superintendent of Raynham’s Center Water District, says the PFAS standard change has been a challenge to navigate.
“They basically moved the goalpost and not in our favor,” Chase said.
Chase said the town is now pulling more water from its other wells and looking at a long-term solution which could be expensive.
“We’ve heard for one facility somewhere in the $25 million range for basically 3500 customers that’s a little bit of a back breaker,” Chase said.
The Raynham Center Water District is recommending that immunocompromised residents and residents with infants use bottled water while the PFAS levels are elevated.