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Per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances, also known as PFAS, are a group of manmade chemicals that have been manufactured and used in a variety of industries since the 1950s. They are referred to as ‘forever chemicals’ – they are persistent in our bodies, mobile in the environment and many will not naturally degrade. PFAS chemicals are most often commercially used to create grease, water and stain resistant barriers for materials, including Teflon, grease-resistant take out containers, and upholstery and carpet treatments; these chemicals are also found in firefighting foam.
PFAS compounds can be found in:
Certain PFAS chemicals are no longer manufactured in the United States as a result of phase outs including the PFOA Stewardship Program in which eight major chemical manufacturers agreed to eliminate the use of PFOA and PFOA-related chemicals in their products and as emissions from their facilities. Although PFOA and PFOS are no longer manufactured in the United States, they are still produced internationally and can be imported into the United States in consumer goods such as carpet, leather and apparel, textiles, paper and packaging, coatings, rubber and plastics.
Concerns have been raised regarding human health and ecological risks associated with certain PFAS chemicals. The Town of Nantucket is following the guidance and testing requirements of Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) as it pertains to PFAS.
On October 2, 2020, MassDEP published final regulations establishing a drinking water standard, or a Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL), for the sum of six per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). The MCL is 20 parts per trillion (ppt) for what the regulations call PFAS6, or the sum of six PFAS compounds: perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS), perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), perfluorohexane sulfonic acid (PFHxS), perfluorononanoic acid (PFNA), perfluoroheptanoic acid (PFHpA), and perfluorodecanoic acid (PFDA).
Additional MassDEP regulations for testing of PFAS in the environment are likely in the future as scientific studies are conducted and the understanding of these chemicals increases. The Town of Nantucket has been and will perform all testing as required by MassDEP. The Town may also perform testing as recommended by our professional and licensed consultants to address specific situations.
The Town of Nantucket, Nantucket Memorial Airport and Wannacomet Water Company along with MassDEP are working together to coordinate PFAS related activities.
If homeowners are interested PFAS sampling and testing at their own election, there are laboratories you may contact and request pricing. Here are a few companies that are known to have done PFAS testing on Nantucket. This is not a complete list of all available firms and this list is not to be considered an endorsement for any particular company. Listed alphabetically:
If there are other firms that may be added to the list, please send the information to PFAS@nantucket-ma.gov
PFAS are a group of man-made chemicals used since the 1940s. PFAS were used to manufacture commercial products and firefighting foam. Some PFAS are no longer used. The potential source of PFAS present at the Town landfill, such as in waste water treatment residuals and municipal solid waste, are primarily from use of household cleaning products, food packaging, clothing, and beauty products that contained PFAS.
In 2019, Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) recognized the need for more information on PFAS characteristics in wastewater treatment residuals. Prior to 2020 on Nantucket, such residuals were mixed with municipal solid waste and leaf/yard waste to be used for compost. Waste Options, the Town Contractor, collected compost samples in 2019 to maintain a proactive approach to environmental quality on the island. Specific PFAS sampling protocols were not established at that time.
The data received could not be readily assessed, as MassDEP has not yet issued criteria to evaluate risk associated with PFAS in wastewater treatment residuals or compost. Further, it is recognized that sampling was not conducted in accordance with current protocols. The Town and its Contractor Waste Options are now performing quarterly monitoring of PFAS in accordance with the recent MassDEP Approval of Suitability (AOS) permit requirement updates. Note that starting in 2019, wastewater residuals and municipal solid waste stopped being used to prepare compost for Town-wide use.
The Town is currently evaluating island-specific risk to PFAS, including compost use, and subsequent risk mitigation actions, as warranted. It is essential that subsequent actions be based on sound science and collection of samples using MassDEP sampling protocols. The Town and Contractor, Waste Options, agree that the 2020 MassDEP Approval of Suitability (AOS) permit compost sampling PFAS results will be used to discuss risk mitigation actions with the Board of Health and other public stakeholders.
As part of the Town’s public outreach strategy, the PFAS results from the independent sampling event and island-specific risk to PFAS will be made available to the community. A fact sheet on the island-specific risk to PFAS is scheduled to be released next month. The Town is also collaborating with North East Biosolids and Residuals Association (NEBRA) to prepare and distribute educational materials pertaining to PFAS in biosolids and compost, and potential use. The Town will continue to be compliant with MassDEP PFAS regulations as they evolve and will transparently communicate status to the public.
MassDEP Drinking Water Program Private Wells PFAS Sampling Program click here.