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Ayer DPW superintendent Mark Wetzel gives a tour of the town’s Grove Pond Water Treatment Plant, which includes a new wing for an ionic exchange treatment plant to remove PFAS, the first in Massachusetts. These are sample taps to check the PFAS level in the media, which is a sand-like material that attracts the PFAS. When the media reaches capacity in a couple of years, it will be collected and incinerated to destroy the PFAS. (SUN/Julia Malakie)
Ayer DPW superintendent Mark Wetzel gives a tour of the town’s Grove Pond Water Treatment Plant, which includes a new wing for an ionic exchange treatment plant to remove PFAS, the first in Massachusetts. These are sample taps to check the PFAS level in the media, which is a sand-like material that attracts the PFAS. When the media reaches capacity in a couple of years, it will be collected and incinerated to destroy the PFAS. (SUN/Julia Malakie)
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BOSTON – Massachusetts will need “urgent and committed state leadership,” plus a regional rather than municipal focus, to tackle growing concerns about PFAS chemicals, a top lawmaker said Tuesday as a range of officials and advocates started a months-long analysis of the issue.

Rep. Kate Hogan, the House’s speaker pro tempore, said contamination from per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, has become “quite familiar” in Massachusetts as cities and towns grapple with presence of the so-called “forever chemicals” in their water supplies.

While kicking off a new intergovernmental task force that will craft recommendations for how the state can address PFAS chemicals and their associated health risks, Hogan said the response must be broad.

“Since we now seem to be coming out of other attention-grabbing headlines, PFAS is coming back to the fore,” Hogan, a Stow Democrat, said. “It’s quickly becoming clear to me that tackling PFAS contamination in water supplies must be bigger than any one town, region or any one agency.”

PFAS contamination has been a major issue in the Nashoba Valley, and around Devens, the former Army base in Ayer, Harvard and Shirley.

Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Martin Suuberg told the task force at its inaugural meeting on Tuesday that about 600 public water systems in Massachusetts, including 25 of the largest ones, have been sampled so far for contamination from the chemicals. Most reported no issues, but the department is working with 23 community water systems with excessive PFAS levels, Suuberg said.

This is a developing story.