Town PFAS Summit: Progress Made, But More Work Ahead

JohnCarl McGrady •

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The Select Board and Board of Health reviewed the Town’s existing PFAS mitigation efforts and discussed potential next steps at a joint summit on Tuesday. The meeting also highlighted the need for better guidance on PFAS disposal and other issues.

The Town’s ongoing projects include a wastewater sampling program, updated private well regulations, and expanded access to Town water for over 80 homes near the airport. The Town has also completed a long-awaited groundwater sampling program near the landfill, first proposed in 2021, after it finally received approval last fall. A report on the findings is expected by the end of August. Perhaps most notable is an upcoming study looking at a new method for removing PFAS from water. The technology, known as foam fractionation, uses bubbles to concentrate PFAS from a water stream into a foam that can be more easily treated.

“The question is, can this project work with our liquids and PFAS compounds? This study will help answer those questions,” special projects manager Chuck Larsen said. “We're at a point where the technology has been proven in many situations. We're taking the next step of using samples from Nantucket.”

In total, the town has appropriated $15 million for PFAS remediation and mitigation and has spent over $4.7 million. However, as public comment at the summit made clear, there is still a long way to go. Several commenters spoke to a lack of guidance from the town on issues such as waste disposal and next steps after detecting PFAS in a private well. PFAS advocate and Nantucket PFAS Action Group founder Ayesha Khan-Barber pointed out that the island’s hazardous waste collection will not accept PFAS-contaminated water filters, leading many islanders to dump the filters in the landfill and potentially contaminate Madaket’s water supply.

Board of Health chair Malcolm MacNab agreed that the town needs to show more leadership.

“If you have been unfortunate to test positive, we haven't really told people what to do,” he said.

Perhaps inevitably, the conversation also turned to the airport’s proposed expansion, despite a recent opinion from town counsel that the Board of Health is powerless to regulate the airport’s PFAS disposal.

“It's almost like a foreign country,” MacNab said.

Some island residents, including Meghan Perry, who spoke about the issue at Tuesday’s summit, disagree.

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