The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection recently awarded a grant for $1,072,791 to a group led by Research Professor Dr. David A. Reckhow of the Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE) Department to sample for a key form of contaminant – per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances or PFAS – from approximately 1,600 public water systems and 3,500 private water wells in 84 selected communities across the state. See Wicked Local, the Berkshire Eagle, and News Office release.
According to the UMass News Office release, the UMass Amherst team includes Professor John Tobiason (Co-PI and head of the CEE department), plus 11 other professionals, six graduate students, and 24 undergraduates. There is also a smaller group from UMass Lowell assisting in this statewide effort.
The News Office explains that laboratory analysis of each sample is providing valuable data on the concentration of 18 commonly measured PFAS species, especially the six specific substances that make up the government-regulated PFAS group.
As the News Office says, PFAS contaminants are a group of man-made chemicals that have been manufactured and used in a variety of industrial applications around the world, including in the U.S., since the 1940s. The chemicals are found in a variety of products, they don’t break down, and they can accumulate in humans over time. There is also scientific evidence that exposure to PFAS can have adverse health effects in humans.
Residents of Massachusetts receive their drinking water from approximately 1,624 public water systems and from private wells, with more than 500,000 residents served by private wells, according to the News Office.
The program that Reckhow’s group is overseeing is designed to characterize PFAS levels across the Commonwealth and especially in towns that are not predominantly served by a public water system. (June 2021)