In response to the HopNews article Town Water Likely Contaminated by State Fire Academy on March 4, the Town of Hopkinton released an official statement regarding the allegation that the Massachusetts Fire Fighting Academy used the Fruit Street complex (formerly Pyne Sand & Gravel) as a training field for gas school. The HopNews article makes clear that firefighters throughout New England routinely practiced extinguishing gas fires using Aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF), which contains PFAS, and in the process contaminated nearby wells, including Fruit Street well #6.
The joint statement was issued by Town Manager Norman Khumalo, Fire Chief William Miller and DPW Director John Westerling. In part the statement reads “When the Town was permitting well #6 in 2003 an engineer hired by the Town determined that “the primary known source of potential contamination is the salt that was stored and used at the former sand and gravel operation” nearby and that “no other potential sources of contamination were identified.”
While this is true it is also evasive. That is because the town’s consultants did not test for the presence of PFAS.
The mention of salt in the findings is also true, but according to sources, this was not a cause for alarm to the engineers at the time. Salt is highly soluble and they knew that within a few weeks of operation it would have all dissolved. It’s unclear why the town chose to include this fact other than to make it known that some testing had actually been done.
From the statement: “State and federal resources nationwide are separately focused on determining causes of contamination. Our focus is on getting it out of our water supply,” Director Westerling said.
Yes, but not in Hopkinton. To our knowledge, there is no state or federal resource focused on determining the cause of contamination in Fruit street well #6.
Finally: “Hopkinton DPW estimates that a local investigation to attempt to determine a cause of the PFAS infiltration would likely cost several hundred thousand dollars, may duplicate state and federal efforts, and may not produce a conclusive result.”
This estimate is based on DPW’s theory that, in order to understand where the PFAS is coming from, several test wells would need to be dug and the flow of water underground would need to be monitored. That is a method if the source of contamination is unknown.
But now that we know the Fruit street complex was heavily soaked with AFFF for years it seems we have a logical place to start. Soil sample collection in and around the former Fire Fighting Academy gas school area could happen, and according to Lindsay Pollard of the Toxics Use Reduction Institute at UMass Lowell, it will be far less expensive to collect and test than the town estimates.
It is notable that the public statement focused on town water only, making no mention of nearby residents, whose private wells are likely contaminated also.
I’ve been in town for a long time. I hope the town will do the right thing here. Would love to see some of that money that is being spent on “Hopkinton’s Big Dig” diverted to this. To me, it is more important and it should be to town officials as well.