Air Force agrees to pay $1.3M for Westfield PFAS water contamination
By JIM KINNEY | The Republican | Published: September 25, 2019
WESTFIELD, Mass. (Tribune News Service) — The U.S. Air Force has agreed to pay Westfield $1.3 million toward $13 million or more in costs associated with contamination in the city’s water supply.
The City Council has a special meeting set for Thursday at City Hall to approve the deal, according to a news release from Westfield Mayor Brian P. Sullivan.
Dave Billips, city director of public works, said the settlement with the Pentagon doesn’t preclude the city from getting more money in the future. It was important that the city not release the Air Force from liability in the matter, he said.
Westfield officials have traced the contamination to firefighting foam used in the past at Barnes Air National Guard Base, home of the 104th Fighter Wing.
A temporary filtration plant for Well 2 has worked well since it started operating last year, Billips said. A similar but larger permanent plant for Wells 7 and 8 should go online soon, he said. Both plants are on the city’s North End, near Barnes.
The settlement comes following efforts of the city’s Law Department and U.S. Rep. Richard E. Neal, D-Springfield. Billips said he met with Neal both in Washington and Springfield.
PFAS, or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, found in the firefighting foam, can cause reproductive and developmental, liver and kidney, and immunological effects in laboratory animals. The air base quit using that type of foam for firefighting drills in 2015.
Westfield has joined in a federal lawsuit with other communities facing the same contamination. Defendants are manufacturers 3M Co., Chemguard Inc. and Tyco Fire Products LP. The lawsuit is still pending in the federal courts.
The City Council in 2018 approved a $13 million bond that included money for the filtration work plus other unrelated improvements
So far, the city has spent about $5.5 million on a granular activated carbon filter plant for Wells 7 and 8 and another $800,000 on engineering and design costs. The temporary Well 2 plant cost $500,000 and design work has begun on a permanent plant, Billips said.
Granular activated carbon has been used to remove contaminants in Westfield both at the North End wells and at a plant removing agricultural chemicals from well water collected off Shaker Road in the southern part of town. The Shaker Road plant has been operating for more than 20 years, Billips said.