US Representative William R. Keating (D-Bourne) announced on Friday, September 17, that the US Air Force will pay to clean up wells in Mashpee and Falmouth contaminated by PFAS from military activities on Joint Base Cape Cod.
The agreement with the Air Force means Mashpee Water District taxpayers will be off the hook for $8.5 million approved earlier this year for filters to remove the contaminants from two wells on Turner Road that exceed state drinking water standards.
“Facing capital costs above $8 million to remove PFAS from their drinking water, the ratepayers of Mashpee and Falmouth can now rest assured that the cleanup of this contamination caused by Department of Defense Activities will be borne by the Department of Defense, as it should be,” Rep. Keating said in a joint statement with US Senator Edward J. Markey.
PFAS, also known as “forever chemicals” because they never fully degrade, are a class of manmade chemicals that have been linked to low infant birth weights, suppression of the immune system and cancer.
The use of firefighting foams at Joint Base Cape Cod more than two decades ago is the known source of several plumes of PFAS contamination that have infiltrated numerous wells on the Upper Cape, including the two Turner Road wells.
Mashpee Water District Superintendent Andrew G. Marks said the Air Force funding is “a big, big deal for us” because the two Turner Road wells, which supply almost half the town’s capacity, have been offline for several years.
The funding through the federal government will accelerate permitting and construction, meaning that filters that would have would not have been constructed until at least 2023 could be in place much sooner, Mr. Marks said.
“I wouldn’t be shocked if they started construction this year,” he said.
The funding will also remediate PFAS contamination of the Fresh Pond well in Falmouth and several private wells impacted by the plume emanating from the joint base.
“The cleanup of this plume remains a top priority for both of our offices, and we look forward to an announcement from the Department of Defense soon which confirms its commitment to the people of Mashpee and Falmouth,” the statement from Rep. Keating and Sen. Markey said.
Officials from the Air Force had previously told the Mashpee Board of Selectmen that because the two wells on Turner Road exceeded state standards for PFAS, but not federal standards, taxpayers would not be reimbursed until mid-2022.