Baker-Polito administration announces water quality grant program

State officials announce grant program to protect public water from chemical compounds

PUBLISHED: | UPDATED:

BOSTON – To prevent further contamination of Massachusetts public water supplies, the Baker-Polito Administration announced a grant program last week to treat water with detections of chemical compounds.

According to the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, the administration announced the program on May 20 that is set to provide up to $2 million in total grant funding.

The grants would cover expenses made by towns designing and planning water treatment systems.

The program is meant for towns to address public water supplies tainted by per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS.

“Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances present a significant risk to public health, and this grant funding will help cities and towns complete the important work necessary to protect the health and safety of residents across the commonwealth,” Governor Charlie Baker said in a press release. “Our administration is proud to build on our PFAS sampling efforts throughout the commonwealth by providing this assistance to communities dealing with contamination.”

“Communities are hard at work to protect critical water resources, and this grant program will provide needed capital to support the design and planning of essential water treatment systems,” Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito added in the release. “As municipalities across the commonwealth work to address PFAS, our administration is committed to supporting these efforts and ensure all drinking water throughout Massachusetts is safe, clean and healthy.”

Traces of PFAS were detected in water wells surrounding the former Fort Devens after the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection required towns containing those wells to be tested for the compounds in 2016. The tests came about after reports were released detailing the chemical compounds were found in items at the now-closed military base that had seeped into nearby water wells. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have determined through testing and sampling that groundwater sources in Ayer, Shirley and Harvard had been contaminated by PFAS.

To prevent any further spreading of contaminated water, the Town of Ayer instituted an outdoor water ban on May 15, preventing public water from being used outdoors between 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Ayer’s Department of Public Works is also constructing two water treatment plants for wells near Grove Pond and Spectacle Pond.

“Providing this new funding opportunity helps to build on the aggressive action we are taking in Massachusetts to protect the public and the environment from the harmful impacts of PFAS,” Kathleen Theoharides, secretary of energy and environmental affairs said in the release. “Working closely with communities facing PFAS is essential to our efforts to eliminate these contaminants, and these grants will help cities and town develop the necessary treatment systems to protect drinking water.”

“MassDEP is pleased to partner with public water suppliers to help develop treatment for PFAS so that clean, safe drinking water is available for all Massachusetts residents,” MassDEP Commissioner Martin Suuberg said in the release. “As we continue to learn more about the impacts PFAS has on human health, it is important that we collaborate with communities on the front lines of this effort to protect our water resources.”

The DEP believes the grant funding will expand testing further throughout the state and support the department’s strategy for treatment. The $2 million announced comes from a $28.4 million supplemental budget for water infrastructure secured by the administration. According to the DEP, the grant program provides funds for local water suppliers to plan, study, test pumps, design and engineer the appropriate measures to remove PFAS from water systems. The program will also reimburse completed works done by towns who’ve already taken measures to treat their water systems. A maximum grant of $200,000 per application will be available.

More information can be found at commbuys.com/bso/.