A pilot program designed to filter hazardous substances from treated wastewater has reaped superior results for the town landfill. Officials with the Integrated Solid Waste Management facility claim a four-step filtration process has proven highly successful at removing polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS.
The to-date results of the pilot program were presented to the Bourne Board of Health during its meeting on Wednesday, September 8. The board of health has site assignment responsibilities for the landfill, which means operations approval of the facility.
Asa Mintz, operations manager for ISWM, addressed the board on the program. Mr. Mintz explained that ISWM started with the program in November 2020. Initial treatment attempts resulted in iron sulfides clogging up the system, which prevented thorough cleansing of the treated wastewater, he said.
Working with engineers from Civil & Environmental Consultants, ISWM developed a different process that included use of the product Fluoro-Sorb, Mr. Mintz said. He said that use of the product results in the water “being treated while it is being cleaned at the same time.”
Mr. Mintz said that, to date, ISWM has run approximately 35,000 gallons of water through the process utilizing Fluoro-Sorb. So far, he said, “we’ve had very good results.”
“That’s not to say that once we start running 50,000, 60,000, 100,000 gallons, we’re not going to run into issues,” he said, “but right now, everything looks 100 percent better than our first treatment method. It’s a process that we’re all proud of at this point.”
Participation in the program was funded through $500,000 from ISWM retained earnings and at no cost to the town’s residents. Use of the money to take part in the program was approved by voters at Special Town Meeting last November.
ISWM general manager Daniel T. Barrett said that development of this treatment and filtration system could lead to new technology that will provide a far-reaching solution to the larger problem of PFAS collection and disposal. He recalled Bourne being at the center of a similar breakthrough when a solution for odor problems at the landfill was discovered a number of years ago.
“The little old town of Bourne is, once again, at the cutting edge of solving a national problem,” he said.
“The landfills and the wastewater treatment plants, they’re ultimately going to be the ones that are tasked with dealing with this problem,” Mr. Mintz said.
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, where some residents still rely on bottled drinking water provided by the base.
Wednesday night, Mr. Barrett also spoke to the board about the permitting process that is underway relative to plans for expanding the town landfill. The project is under review by a subcommittee of the Cape Cod Commission as a Development of Regional Impact.
Mr. Barrett said the subcommittee meets on the project again on Monday, September 13. If the subcommittee votes in favor of moving forward with the project, he said, it then will move on to review by the full commission.
The expansion plans include permitting from the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act office to use more than 5 million cubic yards of air space over the existing landfill. That would allow ISWM to build new disposal cells on top of existing cells.
Expansion would include moving the facility’s administrative offices as well as its construction and demolition barn and Dorothy’s Swap Shop to a 12-acre parcel purchased from Cape Cod Aggregates owner Samuel A. Lorusso Jr. Moving those buildings will free up roughly 25 acres for additional disposal cells that would keep the landfill operational potentially into the mid-2040s.
The 12-acre parcel is south of the current landfill and would have to be cleared. Environmental groups such as the Conservation Law Foundation are upset that indigenous, protected species, specifically Eastern box turtles, will lose their habitat.