PFAS

Joint Message from Nantucket Airport Commission, Board of Health and Select Board

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What are PFAS? 

Per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances, also known as PFAS, are a group of manmade chemicals that have been manufactured and used in a variety of industries since the 1950s. They are referred to as ‘forever chemicals’ – they are persistent in our bodies and the environment and many will not naturally degrade. PFAS chemicals are most often commercially used to create grease, water and stain resistant barriers for materials, including Teflon, grease-resistant take out containers, and upholstery and carpet treatments; these chemicals are also found in firefighting foam.  

PFAS can be found in:

  • Food packaged in PFAS-containing materials, processed with equipment that used PFAS, or grown in PFAS-contaminated soil or water.
  • Commercial household products, including stain- and water-repellent fabrics, nonstick products (e.g., Teflon), polishes, waxes, paints, cleaning products, and fire-fighting foams (a major source of groundwater contamination at airports and military bases where firefighting training occurs).
  • Workplace, including production facilities or industries (e.g., chrome plating, electronics manufacturing or oil recovery) that use PFAS.
  • Drinking water, typically localized and associated with a specific facility (e.g., manufacturer, landfill, wastewater treatment plant, firefighter training facility).
  • Living organisms, including fish, animals and humans, where PFAS have the ability to build up and persist over time.

Certain PFAS chemicals are no longer manufactured in the United States as a result of phase outs including the PFOA Stewardship Program in which eight major chemical manufacturers agreed to eliminate the use of PFOA and PFOA-related chemicals in their products and as emissions from their facilities. Although PFOA and PFOS are no longer manufactured in the United States, they are still produced internationally and can be imported into the United States in consumer goods such as carpet, leather and apparel, textiles, paper and packaging, coatings, rubber and plastics. 

Why now? 

In 2016, the United States Environmental Protection Agency published a drinking water Health Advisory level for two PFAS compounds at a combined 70 parts per trillion as the science to test and identify these chemicals has evolved. In 2018, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) issued a more stringent drinking water guideline of 70 parts per trillion for five combined PFAS compounds.  

As of April 2019, DEP has proposed amendments to drinking water guidelines, and groundwater and soil cleanup standards to change the limits to 20 parts per trillion for a combined six PFAS compounds. DEP’s proposed regulation changes can be found here.   

Nantucket Memorial Airport: The Airport’s information portal on PFAS and water quality can be found here.

Wannacomet Water Company: The Wannacomet Water Company reports as of September 17, 2020:

  • On September 1, 2020  Wannacomet sampled all 5 wells for PFAS Compounds.  Three wells had no PFAS Compounds detected.
  • One PFAS Compound was detected in two of the wells at levels lower than the MADEP Drinking Water Standards
  • No Safe Drinking Water Standards were exceeded and Wannacomet will collect confirmatory PFAS Compound samples from those two wells in late September 2020.  Results of the confirmatory samples will be posted.
  • The MassDEP has not required that PFAS sampling be completed by any public water supplies yet.  Wannacomet expects the MassDEP will be coming out with that soon and will be adding PFAS to its sampling schedule.  Currently, Wannacomet goes above and beyond and collects more samples than are required by MassDEP.
  • Wannacomet is required by law and MassDEP to collect samples as outlined in our MassDEP Sampling Schedule. 
  • The sampling schedule is based on quarterly sampling of hundreds of constituents including, heavy metals, VOC’s, SOC’s, inorganics, radon and others.
  • Members of our staff including the Director have taken sampling procedure classes offered by New England Water Work and have completed on-line training for PFAS sampling.
  • Wannacomet’s sampling budget is 65K to 75K a year. 

Surfside and Sconset Waste Water Treatment Facilities: The Nantucket Sewer Department reports as of September 1, 2020:

  • There are currently no MassDEP mandated PFAS testing requirements.
  • The Sewer Department is anticipating MassDEP requirements and has been preapring estimates and testing strategies.
  • The Sewer Department completes all MassDEP required permit testing as required daily, weekly and monthly. Sewer Department staff perform many of these tests in house but send a many samples to a certified Lab in Rhode Island.  Current testing includes:
    • Daily PH influent and Effluent both plants (required MassDEP permit testing) 
    • Daily Temps (required MassDEP permit testing)  
    • Daily Nitrate, Nitrite, Nitrogen and Ammonia at both plants (required MassDEP permit testing) 
    • Daily MLSS Mixed Liquor testing for Process control. Basically how many bugs and how much food in the system.
    •  Weekly BOD-5 Biochemical Oxygen Demand testing both plants for MassDEP and Process control
    • Weekly BOD-5 Biochemical Oxygen Demand testing both plants (required MassDEP permit testing) 
    • Weekly Sludge, Filtrate and Sludge Cake in house this is used for process control.
    •  Weekly Oils and Grease for both Plants (required MassDEP permit testing) 
    • Weekly TSS total suspended solids both influent and effluent (required MassDEP permit testing) 
    • Weekly Ammonia influent (required MassDEP permit testing) 
    • Monthly Leachate and Brew Waste sent off to state lab
    • Every other week Sun-Mon for COVID-19 Testing with BioBot.
    • Monthly testing for PH, Water Levels and salinity for all 9 sampling wells at Surfside.
  • The Sewer Department also has an extensive monthly, quarterly and annually testing set (required MassDEP permit testing)  for Volatile Organic Compounds of wells, Effluents etc. for both plants.
  • The Sewer Department assisst other Departments to include NR sampling as needed such as sampling for types of paint or other chemical around the island. 

Nantucket Landfill: The Department of Public Works Director reports no regulations or testing requirements exist currently for PFAS testing at the landfill. 

How To Sample Collection for PFAS Testing 

MassDEP explains the complexity of sample collections for PFAS testing in this video.

PFAS Resources    


Contact Us

  1. If you have questions about PFAS testing, please send an email to PFAS@Nantucket-ma.gov.