Elevated PFAS Levels Found On Hawthorne Lane

Elevated levels of PFAS have been detected at a residential property on Hawthorne Lane, the first confirmed detection of the so-called forever chemicals on the island beyond the vicinity of the known contamination around Nantucket Memorial Airport.

The sampling of the private water well off the little-traveled dirt road was conducted as part of a collaborative program spearheaded by the state Department of Environmental Protection and UMass Amherst to test public and private water wells across the state. On Nantucket, the UMass-DEP program is sampling 50 private wells. The first 12 testing results have been returned, revealing the lone positive hit on Hawthorne Lane.

The finding, so far away from the airport with an as yet unknown source of contamination, is perplexing, Nantucket Health Department Director Roberto Santamaria said.

“It’s just that it’s so far away from any industrial sector, it’s really kind of surprising – the location,” Santamaria said. Little more is known at this point, according to Santamaria, other than that the water well on Hawthorne Lane tested above the state’s PFAS public drinking water standard, known as the Massachusetts Maximum Contamination Level, of 20 parts per trillion (ppt). A potential source could be the former junkyard along Hummock Pond Road near the beginning of Hawthorne Lane, Santamaria said, but at this point that was merely conjecture and further investigation will be necessary. 

The presence of PFAS in drinking water is an emerging concern in Massachusetts and nationwide. Used to manufacture stain- and water-resistant products, PFAS are suspected to increase the risk of kidney and testicular cancers, as well as other health conditions.

While the residential properties around Nantucket Memorial Airport that have been contaminated with PFAS due to its use of firefighting foam have received filtration systems, discounted water bills, and a pledge to connect them to the municipal water system – all paid for by the airport – the response on Hawthorne Lane is not yet clear.

The affected property owner has been notified, but the next steps are uncertain.

“That’s the part that’s so frustrating and frustrating for the property owner,” Santamaria said. “They’re looking for answers and we really don’t have any yet. We are going to be suggesting that people connect to town water if they have access, but beyond that we don’t know what the action is going to be.”

The town will be hosting a public Q&A session on PFAS with Angela Gallagher, an environmental analyst with the state DEP, on Thursday Oct. 21 at 5:30 p.m. to discuss the Umass/DEP program.

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