Hyannis, MA: Wells Test High for PFCs
Cape Code is an essential sandbar, which means that when it comes to drinking water, nearly anything that is spilled into the sand has the potential to trickle down into the groundwater. The truth of this fact has come to light recently, with levels of two dangerous compounds - PFOS and PFOA - over the limit set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in Barnstable and Hyannis.
Water Emergency Declared in Barnstable
The drinking water in Barnstable is contaminated with dangerous levels of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS), chemicals that are commonly found in stain-resistant clothing and non-stick coatings. In May of 2015, the two of the four wells that supply water to West Hyannis, Hyannisport, and Hyannis were closed as a result of the presence of the contaminants.
But PFOA and PFOS aren’t the only chemicals that the cape is struggling to combat. According to the Silent Springs Institute, which has worked in collaboration with nine different public water suppliers in Cape Cod, 75 percent of wells in the area are contaminated with “detectable levels of emerging contaminants.” There were 18 different chemicals detected. Levels of PFOS and sulfamethoxazole (a common antibiotic) were amongst the highest reported in drinking water in the entire county.
The Cause of Contamination
As stated above, the Cape is virtually a sandbar, absorbing anything that lands on it into the sand and transferring it directly to groundwater, which is then used for drinking. An article in The Boston Globe explains that over the years, septic discharge, gasoline, insect repellant, and dozens of other substances and chemicals have been spilled on the ground. The Silent Springs Institute suggests that the 18 chemicals detected are likely the result of septic systems. The PFCs (perfluorinated compounds) detected in Hyannis are likely a result of contamination from the nearby Barnstable Municipal Airport and the fire training academy.
The Risks of Drinking Contaminated Water
When water is contaminated, residents are left with worries and fears about how long the water has been contaminated for, what the risks are of exposure, and whether or not water is safe to consume. It is important to note that there are very serious health consequences associated with the exposure to the chemicals named above, including effects to the thyroid glands, mammary glands, and immune system, potentially leading to cancer and growth and development delays or defects.
Sadly, it is likely that these contaminants have lasted for some time. One study has found a correlation between elevated levels of breast cancer in Hyannis and contaminated water. Official in Hyannis have warned that pregnant women and babies should not consume the water.
What to Do if You Are a Victim of Contaminated Drinking Water
Being exposed to PFOS or PFOA, as well as myriad other chemicals, through consumption of drinking water is a scary thought. If you believe that you have been exposed, and further believe that this exposure has caused a health problem or defect for you or a loved one, you have legal rights.
To learn more about these legal rights, please contact our experienced environmental law attorneys at the offices of Napoli Shkolnik, PLLC. A consultation with our legal team is completely free.