The Air Force’s decision to pay to clean up wells in Mashpee and Falmouth contaminated by PFAS from military activities on Joint Base Cape Cod was greeted, not surprisingly, with cheers from the Mashpee Water District superintendent and federal legislators concerned about who should bear the cost of removing contaminants.

In short, it was the responsible decision.

Not only is the Air Force saving Mashpee taxpayers $8.5 million to install filters on two wells on Turner Road; it also goes a long way toward rebuilding trust between the towns and the military leadership. The alternative—the Air Force sticking instead with federal rather than state drinking water standards to guide its actions—would only have done more damage to an already difficult relationship between Cape communities and the joint base.

Will the military’s decision in this case help to change some minds in another area—the possibility of constructing a multipurpose machine gun range at Camp Edwards? Well, at the very least, it won’t hurt the military’s cause. However, given the looming legal challenges from the county government and others, the situation in Mashpee and Falmouth is unlikely to be a deciding factor after many years of mistrust between base officials and environmentalists.

But we will still give credit to the Air Force for owning up to its basic responsibilities.

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