WESTFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – Firefighting foam from Barnes Air National Guard Base contaminated the city of Westfield’s water supply with potentially cancer-causing chemicals.
Thanks to a multi-million dollar filtration system that the city’s taxpayers covered, Westfield has reduced the presence of PFAS chemicals in their water. The Air Force agreement is a first step towards recovering some of that money.
The Westfield City Council unanimously approved over a million-dollars of reimbursement from the United States Air Force. The reimbursement only covers costs incurred from water contamination from 2017 to 2018.
“This is by no means a closure, it is just the third step in what we are trying to do,” Westfield Mayor Brian Sullivan said.
He told 22News, step A was clean the water and step B was to continue monitoring it. “And C is to recoup some of the funding that was put into this that the citizens of Westfield have had to pay up to this point and do not deserve to do that.”
But what about the city’s pending lawsuits? Like the $50 million suits filed against the foam manufacturers?
Well, according to the city solicitor, this could help.
Susan Phillips told 22News, “This is the first time that we have had an admission in a document from the United States Air Force that they contributed to this.”
While the water is safe to drink now, Kristin Mello, a Westfield water advocate, said the impact of the contaminated water continues. The CDC is currently assessing the long term health impacts.
“The ATSDR finished up their sample collection on September 17, it is going to take a couple of months for any of those results to come back,” Mello said. “In the beginning of 2020 maybe in the spring, we’ll start to see our individual results come back.”
The agreement signed with the air force does not waive claims for damages associated with health care costs according to the City Council. So if there are long term health impacts, that option is not closed.