Effluent PFAS testing may come to Island

The Oak Bluffs board of health is planning to gather other health boards and the MVC to test wastewater for PFAS. — Stacey Rupolo

The Oak Bluffs board of health is planning to bring together other Island health boards and the Martha’s Vineyard Commission to bring effluent per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) testing to the Island.

At an Oak Bluffs board of health meeting Tuesday morning board member Tom Zinno said he spoke with MVC executive director Adam Turner about the testing.

Zinno is drafting a letter to send to Turner asking the MVC to meet with the other boards of health and move toward testing the effluent in septic systems and wastewater treatment plants for PFAS.

“It basically is saying we realize we have PFAS coming from many sources that are in our environment and this is basically dealing with septic systems, the leech from septic systems,” Zinno said.

Testing treatment plants can easily be added to other testing being done, Zinno added, before they move onto testing Title V systems.

“Then we can start to get an idea of what kind of problem there is for PFAS,” he said.

Zinno also mentioned that he hopes engineers can come up with filters that can pull PFAS out of effluent similar to systems that remove nitrogen.

Speaking to The Times by phone, Turner said he did speak to Zinno about the testing. He added that testing can be costly, but it’s something the Island would benefit from.

“Definitely interested in evaluating whether there’s PFAS in septic tanks and how we might mitigate them,” Turner said.

Eventually, Zinno said he’s encouraged by support for PFAS testing and looking at where firefighting foam has been used, what building materials are used on Island homes, and how big the problem is.

Long periods of exposure to PFAS, or high concentrations of it, are toxic, and can affect developing fetuses, thyroid, liver, kidneys, hormone levels, and the immune system. The chemicals have also been known to create a cancer risk.

PFAS has been a hot button issue on the Island since it appeared in wells at homes near the Martha’s Vineyard Airport and in discussion about its use in artificial turf.

The board had been scheduled to discuss draft regulations to restrict installation of synthetic turf containing PFAS, but the discussion was tabled since board member William White was absent from the meeting.


  1. It has long been known that a vast array of organic and inorganic chemicals — including many pharmaceuticals, heavy metals, PFOS, PFOA, etc. — are present in wastewater, and in drinking water sources affected by this wastewater. Hats off to Mr. Zinno for suggesting this testing for the Vineyard.

  2. The EPA has established a health advisory on PFAS at 70 parts per trillion. That is equivalent to one drop of food coloring in 250000gallons of water, and we are worried about a football field?

  3. Andy– Your math is a bit off…
    One seventieth of a trillion gallons is 14,285,714,286 gallons.
    So we would be allowed to put one gallon of food coloring in each of those apx.14.286 billion gallons.
    There are 75,708 drops of water in a gallon– so dividing 14,285714,286 by 75,708 we get
    188,694 gallons per drop.
    your math is off by 24.223 %
    Better than usual, I guess.
    But your point is mute, as we don’t know how much of this stuff leaches out of the plastic until we take samples and study it, right ? If the safe limit is 70 parts, and we find 7,000 parts, will it be a problem then ? After all, that’s only one drop for every 1,887 gallons. We humans typically drink a little less than a gallon of water a day, so even at those concentrations it’s only 1 drop of PFAS every 5 years and 2 months–
    But that’s not the point is it Andy ? Some things are more dangerous than others– A drop of food coloring in every glass of water you drink will not harm you. But a single gram of anthrax could kill up to 100 million people
    In short, your analogy is not only mathematically incorrect, but pathetically irrelevant.
    You can do better..

  4. Keller, My food coloring drop is smaller than your water drop, hence I am not off by 24 percent. You sound ridiculous going through all this minutiae and doing the ”what if” on PFAS that are ubiquitous and have been around for 50 years. It must ”pain” you that someone can die from a PFAS on a football field.

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