By DAN TOMASELLO
LYNNFIELD — The Lynnfield Center Water District (LCWD) is looking to have its short-term PFAS treatment system up and running by the end of the month, Superintendent John Scenna said during a recent Board of Water Commissioners meeting.
Scenna recalled that the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) implemented revised drinking water regulations last October that regulate the maximum contaminant level (MCL) for the sum of six per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances called PFAS6. MassDEP’s new drinking water standard mandates that the minimum PFAS6 level be 20 parts per trillion (PPT), which equals one drop of water in 20 Olympic-size swimming pools.
“We started testing last fall,” said Scenna. “That led us to discovering that Station 2 on Main Street had PFAS levels above the MCL.”
Scenna recalled that ratepayers at a Special District Meeting this past March approved transferring $587,050 from Retained Earnings to fund a short-term PFAS6 treatment plan as well as begin laying the groundwork for a long-term solution.
“We feel confident that we can bring the PFAS levels down to non-detect levels,” said Scenna.
Scenna said the first phase of the short-term PFAS project involved installing new pipes and valves at Station 2. He said the PFAS6 will be treated with two AVANTech vessels, which were delivered to Station 2 by a flatbed truck due to their large size.
“They were a challenge to off-load,” said Scenna. “We had to use a tow truck.”
Scenna noted that both vessels will need to be enclosed to protect them from inclement weather.
“There are two or three options we are looking at,” said Scenna in an interview with the Villager.
Weston & Sampson Vice President Blake Martin said one vessel will include granular activated carbon and the second vessel will contain a specialty ionic exchange resin.
“Water will be pumped through the first vessel and the second vessel before it is returned to the distribution system,” said Martin.
Water Commissioner Andy Youngren asked about the approval process MassDEP will be undertaking before the vessels start being used.
Martin said MassDEP approved a similar project in Devens. While he said MassDEP has follow-up questions about the pilot permit requested by the LCWD, Martin anticipates the permit will be approved “quickly.”
After the two new vessels begin being used, Martin said the LCWD’s PFAS6 levels will be “below” the 20 PPT requirement mandated by MassDEP.
“This will be designed for a demonstration project, which will prove to DEP that this process can be taken forward in the future,” said Martin. “That has allowed us to move quickly with this emergency system.”
Merrow Road resident Ken MacNulty asked Martin what he meant by the phrase “demonstration project.”
“The DEP has allowed demonstration projects to move forward very quickly,” said Martin. “Otherwise, we would have to go through an approval process for an entire treatment plant that could take a year.”
Scenna anticipates the pilot permit issued by MassDEP will be for two or three years.
“This gave us the time to examine how we want to solve this permanently,” said Scenna. “I hope it’s in place by Sept. 1 so we can bring our drinking water within regulations so that it is safe for all demographics to consume.”
In response to a question from Water Commissioner Joe Maney, Martin said the vessels will not completely eliminate PFAS from the LCWD’s water.
“There is no such thing as zero when it comes to PFAS,” said Martin. “Non-detect is the goal. The detection levels are 2 PPT. We will be below that level.”
Youngren asked if there is any technology that can bring PFAS levels to zero.
“The reason why I ask is there are some folks out there who think that any level is bad,” said Youngren.
While Martin said no, he stressed that the vessels containing carbon and the specialty ionic exchange resin are “considered best available technology.”
“They are being installed and/or operating in a number of systems across Massachusetts as well as New Hampshire, New York and Connecticut,” said Martin.
Youngren asked, “Will this keep us out of trouble for the foreseeable future?”
Martin said yes.
Patrice Lane resident Pat Campbell inquired if the LCWD has identified the PFAS6’s source.
Martin recommended that Scenna work with the Bureau of Waste Site Cleanup to identify “any sources” of PFAS.
“Unfortunately, PFAS is in so many common goods,” said Martin. “It’s in carpeting, clothing and many products. It’s also in the wastewater stream and is in septic systems. Even a small amount will show up as concentrations that are measurable.”
Scenna said the water industry is “learning more about PFAS.”
“In Southeastern Massachusetts, there are properties located near a composting facility that ended up having PFAS in their drinking water at extremely high levels,” said Scenna. “They are 10 times more than what we are experiencing. We absolutely want to track sources down, but our first objective is to get the drinking water back below the MCL as quickly as we can. Once that is done, we need to identify how we are going to address PFAS long-term. While we do that, we need to keep our eyes open about what are the potential sources.”