Private wells to be tested in Westfield


WESTFIELD, Mass. (The Westfield News) – City residents with private water wells may be getting their water tested by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) after a regional committee made their recommendations to the department yesterday.

The Barnes Aquifer Protection Advisory Committee (BAPAC) suggested five separate areas in the greater Westfield area to MassDEP to have private wells tested, after fears of contaminants continue to flow through the communities. Three of the locations are in Westfield while two are located in Holyoke, but all are in the general vicinity of Barnes Regional Airport.

The study comes on the heels of groundwater in Westfield being contaminated with perflourinated carbons (PFCs), which has been tied across the US and in the community to the use of firefighting foams, like the kind found on the airport grounds.

The testing will be initially funded by MassDEP but it is expected that the department will seek fiscal compensation afterward from the Air National Guard, who BAPAC members suggest are responsible for the contaminants. This though, could limit the tests.

“MassDEP is going to undertake this study because the Air National Guard is not moving quickly enough, then they will have to recoup the costs, so I don’t know if they are going to do something very broad,” Patty Gambarini, chairperson of BAPAC, said.

The areas of the wells are as follows, in order of importance, as determined by BAPAC:

  • The area of Doe Pond, near Buck Pond Road
  • Pequot Pond area
  • Route 202 well area in Holyoke
  • Set of wells in Holyoke near Westfield line
  • Westfield-Southampton line near the former Purple Onion off Southampton Road

The large area that BAPAC is suggesting MassDEP cover is because they are not sure how long the firefighting foam was at the airport—the suspected origin of the PFCs—and are also not sure how or where the PFCs have traveled to in water supplies.

“I think the problem here is the concentrations are parts per trillion, so the density doesn’t matter that much,” Robert Newton, Smith College professor of geology and BPAC member, said. “They may be moving upstream, or the contaminant can move against the current by diffusion.”

In addition to the testing, BAPAC is urging Westfield to gather all of the private wells that the city has. This may pose a problem though, since some wells are not registered with the city. If you do have a private well and are uncertain if yours is registered, you can contact the public health department who maintains those records.

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