The Town of Yarmouth obtains its drinking water from 24 groundwater sources. Fortunately, these sources are of very high water quality and require very little treatment to meet water quality standards. However, we are constantly monitoring all of our sources to ensure that we continue to provide high quality water to our customers. Each year we sample for hundreds of potential contaminants, as required by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) and the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In addition, the Town takes part in the EPA's Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Program. This is a federal program to help identify potential contaminants that may need to be regulated in the future. The Town is required to produce a report for its customers each year that discusses the results of the required sampling. Yarmouth's latest water quality report can be found here.
In addition to continuous monitoring of water quality, the Water Division owns and protects over 963 acres of land surrounding well fields and aquifer recharge areas to help ensure continued high quality water sources. We also inspect these areas regularly for any condition that could adversely affect the water quality. Finally, our staff, in conjunction with the Health Department, reviews and comments on local land development plans near our well fields that could impact water quality.
Currently, the Yarmouth Water Division is closely monitoring a family of chemicals called per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) that have been detected in some public water supplies in Massachusetts and across the nation. Recently, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection issued a new drinking water standard for the sum of six PFAS compounds (PFAS6). This new standard requires all Massachusetts public water suppliers to test for PFAS. The sum of PFAS6 may not exceed 20 nanograms per liter (ng/L), also equal to 20 parts per trillion (ppt).
PFAS are a family of chemicals used for nonstick, stain-resistant and water-proof coatings, and in numerous consumer products, industrial uses, and firefighting foams. Manufacturing of certain PFAS was discontinued in the U.S. decades ago, but they may still be used in imported products. PFAS are resilient and do not degrade easily. As a result, they are widely found in the environment as products are disposed of and PFAS leaches into the soil and water, finding its way to food and drinking water sources.
MassDEP recommends that consumers in a sensitive subgroup (pregnant or nursing women, infants and people diagnosed by their health care provider to have a compromised immune system), are advised not to consume, drink, or cook with water when the level of PFAS6 is above 20 ppt. These individuals are advised to use alternative sources of water such as bottled water tested for PFAS or in-home filtration systems certified to remove PFAS by independent testing groups.
The Yarmouth Water Division collects PFAS6 samples on a quarterly basis as required. As shown in the table below, all currently active water sources are below Massachusetts Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) of 20 ppt for the six regulated chemicals (PFOS, PFOA, PFHxS, PFNA, PFHpA and PFDA).
Sampling of Wells No. 4 & 5 and Well No. 10 have resulted in two exceedances of the MCL. All three wells are currently offline while we determine next steps. We are currently under contract to install a portable PFAS treatment systems at Wells No. 4 & 5, which are on the same site. We are working to have this facility online for summer 2023. Well 10 is at a different location, so can't be tied into this treatment system at this time. Therefore it will remain offline for the time being. In order to help meet demands in summer 2023, we are also working to bring Well No. 9 back online. Well No. 9 was turned off in 2013 after concentrations of Perchloroethylene (PCE) exceeded the MCL. However, recent testing has shown non-detectable levels of PCE at Well No. 9. Therefore, Yarmouth Water Department has conducted extensive testing and obtained permission from MassDEP to reactivate the well. After 10 years of inoperation, much of the equipment within the well house and treatment building needs to be replaced. We hope to have the needed parts in time to have the well running for Summer 2023.
The Yarmouth Water Department will continue to monitor any changes in PFAS levels in our sources. In addition, we will continue to monitor for any changes to state and federal regulations. As new technologies for testing and new data on the health effects of the various PFAS contaminants become available, the state regulations may be updated and federal regulations may be instituted. For questions related to at home treatment for PFAS, please refer to this information from EPA.
If you wish to learn more about PFAS, visit www.safewatermass.org, a website developed by the Massachusetts Water Works Association to provide information to our consumers and links to reliable sources of additional information. If you have additional questions, feel free to contact Laurie Ruszala, Water & Wastewater Superintendent, at email@example.com or 508-771-7921.