Mar 23, 2021

High Levels of PFAS Found in a New Salem, Massachusetts, School's Tap Water

Swift River School notified parents and guardians that recent tests of its tap water revealed elevated levels of PFAS

massachusetts water

Swift River School in New Salem, Massachusetts, notified parents and guardians that recent tests of its tap water showed elevated levels of a set of six per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, PFAS6, from its water.

According to the school, it is exploring ways to remove PFAS6, reported Athol Daily News

Edmund Coletta, spokesperson for the state Department of Environmental Protection, told Athol Daily News that Swift River School has a public water system. The school signed up for a free round of testing under a program that provides voluntary PFAS testing of such systems. Public water systems in the state are obligated to meet the drinking water standards and would be financially responsible for mitigation. Certain grants and low-interest loans are available for portions of this work, however.

The last time the school’s drinking water was tested was in November 2020. The initial PFAS6 sampling was 53.8 parts per trillion (ppt) and follow-up sampling completed in January 2021 showed PFAS6 levels at 46.1 ppt, reported Athol Daily News.

Massachusetts maximum contaminant level allows for 20 ppt PFAS6. 

According to Athol Daily News, Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection requires monthly sampling for PFAS at Swift River School but the January 2021 results were rejected due to quality control concerns. The school is awaiting the analytical results of February’s testing and samples from March may take up to six weeks to get results.

Once the results are in, MassDEP will conduct a preliminary investigation, reported Athol Daily News.

According to the school, people in a sensitive subgroup and or with a compromised immune system are advised not to consume, drink or cook with water when the PFSA6 level is more than 20 nanograms per liter.

Bottled water for drinking and cooking foods are recommended. 

People can visit for a link to a list of companies that voluntarily test their water for PFAS and share the results.

Anyone with specific health concerns regarding past exposure should visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website and consult a health care professional.

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