Governor recommends additional PFAS remediation funding

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A bill filed by Gov. Charlie Baker in early September includes additional funding for issues related to per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in Massachusetts.

Since November 2018, the Martha’s Vineyard Airport has been working to remediate contamination of private wells and problem areas by the water-soluble chemical found in aircraft firefighting foam.

The airport filed an action plan with the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) in January 2019 that outlined recovery methods and preventive measures for private wells south of airport property.

Approximately $400,000 has been spent to date on hiring an environmental firm to investigate and address the issue, along with testing for individual wells and providing activated carbon filtration systems to homes that surpass the state guidelines for pollution levels, according to airport director Cindi Martin. 

Martin said the airport has about $350,000 budgeted for well monitoring and mitigation this year.

“We cannot yet say what will be spent this year on PFAS mitigation. We will do a postmortem review at the end of the year, and see where we stand,” Martin said.

The airport is watching the bill closely, but Martin said she won’t know whether the airport is eligible for reimbursement funds or funding in the future until the legislation is fully fleshed out.

According to a release from the Baker-Polito administration, a $35.5 million payment of penalty funds from Wynn Resorts has freed up $22.4 million for various on-budget funds. 

Baker suggested in his proposed bill that a combination of tax funds and Wynn Resort penalty money totaling $8.4 million be used to determine the scale of PFAS contamination on drinking water. 

He also proposed a transfer of $20 million to the Clean Water Trust for PFAS-related investments, and an additional $35 million “to expand capacity more generally in the Clean Water Trust.”

Although the bill has been moved to the House and Senate floor, a vote has not yet been taken. 

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has set a health advisory of 70 parts per trillion for all PFAS compounds, but stringent regulatory standards have not yet been promulgated by the MassDEP. 

According to Ron Myrick, director of remediation for the airport’s environmental firm, Tetra Tech, standards could be finalized as soon as the end of the year.

Since PFAS levels were reported to be down in August of this year, Myrick was approved to submit reports to the MassDEP every six months, instead of monthly.