AYER — Over a year after first discovering traces of chemical compounds in public water wells, the town is coming closer to buckling down and removing the chemicals from public drinking water.
Town Manager Robert Pontbriand said Monday that the Board of Selectmen will be signing contracts with the Winston Builders Corporation of Westboro to officially award the builders the $3.13 million contract to build an addition for two water wells at Grove Pond. The addition is meant to treat the drinking water wells for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, better known as PFAS.
Ayer has been cracking down on reports of water contamination after discovering traces of PFAS in the water coming from the Grove Pond wells last year. After shutting off one of the wells due to its water's PFAS levels being above the health advisory levels set out by the Environmental Protection Agency, the town ordered temporary treatment for the wells and planned for the construction of the treatment plant as a long-term solution. Levels of PFAS were increasing in another Grove Pond well, causing the town to issue a temporary ban on outdoor use of public water including irrigation systems and sprinklers.
"With the PFAS issue, the town is investing an enormous amount of money into filtration," Pontbriand said. "It made no sense to dump that public water outside."
Pontbriand added on Monday that the town is in the process of completing the temporary treatment of the first Grove Pond well and the outdoor water ban will be in effect for the rest of the summer through Labor Day. He emphasized that the town has a "very high-quality water system" and the water is safe to drink.
While other towns have yet to face any concerns of PFAS contamination, reports of other water sources with rising levels of chemicals have been reported.
The Town of Pepperell authorized an $8 million loan at its Town Meeting in May to pay for the construction of a filtration plant at two water pumps located at the end of Bemis Road. The plant will use greensands filtration to remove high levels of naturally-occurring iron and manganese from water in the two pumps that have been occurring in the last three years and led to resident complaints of discolored water.
Joe Jordan, Pepperell's water and sewer superintendent, said on Monday that the town is currently awaiting for bids to come back from firms looking to construct the plant. Jordan said the work is expected to be completed by May 2021.
Groton's Water Department is currently drafting recommendations to improve its own water quality. According to Water Superintendent Thomas Orcutt, this was requested by the state Department of Environmental Protection in February after the town department noted rising levels of manganese in recent years during its quarterly testing. Orcutt said the town department will have to report back to the DEP by this September with a draft and then have a final plan by next February. Orcutt emphasized that the water is still currently safe to drink.
Jon Winkler: jwinkler@