Bourne’s Integrated Solid Waste Management facility is looking to keep ahead of the curve when it comes to its treated wastewater.
ISWM is requesting a half a million dollars for participation in a pilot treatment program that is expected to go farther in filtering unwanted constituents in wastewater.
Article 6 on the warrant for this month’s Special Town Meeting asks for residents to approve spending $500,000 on the pilot program. The money would come from the ISWM Enterprise Fund Retained Earnings account and at no cost to the taxpayers.
ISWM general manager Daniel T. Barrett explained the nature of the program to members of the Bourne Board of Health during their remote meeting Wednesday last week, October 28. Mr. Barrett said the program is a new way for extracting polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, from treated wastewater. A litany of adverse health impacts have been associated with PFAS exposure.
Mr. Barrett said the goal of the pilot program is to open up more opportunities with more facilities for disposal of leachate, wastewater that has gone through a filtering process.
At present ISWM sends its leachate to a number of different facilities, including SEMASS in Wareham and facilities in Middleboro, Fall River, Lowell and Rhode Island.
Mr. Barrett said the facilities take in leachate based on what they have been permitted to accept by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection. The facilities have become stricter in terms of what they are willing to accept for disposal, so it is easy for them to say no to a client—like ISWM—Mr. Barrett said.
“We’re a great source of revenue for them,” Mr. Barrett said, “but nobody wants to take a chance these days, so we’ve continued to try to discover something new to move forward with.”
PFAS are well-known for thermal and water resistance, which has contributed to their use in a variety of applications including nonstick coatings, waterproof fabrics, protective coatings and firefighting foams.
The substances have also been linked to kidney cancer, breast cancer, low infant birth weights, thyroid disease and immunotoxicity in children.
PFAS was in the firefighter foam used by Joint Base Cape Cod firefighters to contain oil spills at the Otis Rotary in 1997 and 2000. The substance has infiltrated the groundwater in parts of Cataumet and North Falmouth and led to the continued reliance on bottled water by residents in those areas.
The technology for wastewater analysis “is getting very good,” Mr. Barrett said. Companies are able to read down to parts per trillion now. That state-of-the-art technology, he said, “exposes a lot of previous chemicals that were unable to be seen or quantified,” notably PFAS.
Mr. Barrett said ISWM has partnered with global construction technologies firm CETCO on the pilot program. He said CETCO has produced liners for use in the landfill’s various disposal cells.
CETCO has developed a product called Fluoro-Sorb that is particularly effective in removing PFAS from leachate, Mr. Barrett said. He said ISWM has been using granular-activated carbon in its wastewater filtering processes, but the carbon tends to plug up the filtering.
Fluoro-Sorb, he said, is more efficient in removing PFAS. When the Fluoro-Sorb is used up, it is mixed with a small amount of cement that renders the PFAS inert, he said.
There are no regulations landfills must follow for PFAS discharge in leachate, Mr. Barrett said. He added it is just a matter of time before regulations will be drafted that wastewater facilities will have to meet. The DEP and the Environmental Protection Agency are already requiring that places such as treatment plants when they apply for discharge permit renewals, test for PFAS and record those levels.
“It’s information gathering so they can develop regulations,” he said, “so we darn well better be ahead of it and not behind.”
Mr. Barrett said the $500,000 would fund the program for eight to nine months. If at any point the program is not yielding the desired results, ISWM could drop out, and any money left over would be returned to the retained earnings account.
The selectmen voted unanimously to recommend approval of the article. Residents will have final say on the funding during Special Town Meeting in two weeks. The fall session takes place on Monday, November 16, at 7 PM in the gymnasium at Bourne Middle School.