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Cleanup team shares next steps for 'forever chemicals' PFAS at Joint Base Cape Cod

PFAS sites investigated by the Air Force Civil Engineer Center on Joint Base Cape Cod.
Courtesy AFCEC
PFAS sites investigated by the Air Force Civil Engineer Center on Joint Base Cape Cod. The red markings signify PFAS detections that are over state limits.

Next steps are starting to take shape for cleaning up a 6,200-acre plume of ‘forever chemicals’ stemming from Joint Base Cape Cod.

PFAS were in firefighting foam previously used at the base. Those past fire training activities led to PFAS contaminating groundwater in Falmouth and Mashpee.

Rose Forbes is Remediation Program Manager at the Joint Base for the Air Force Civil Engineer Center (AFCEC).

Forbes spoke at last week’s Joint Base Cape Cod Cleanup Team meeting.

She’s proposed installing new extraction wells as an interim solution to help until a final cleanup plan is made for the massive plume.

“These new extraction wells will capture the PFAS – the high concentrations of PFAS – that’s coming out of the fire training area and will transfer that water up to the Sandwich Road treatment plant where the PFAS will be removed,” Forbes said.

The earliest work on the new wells could start would be September and that’s if the plan gets funded.

This year, state regulators said they wanted expedited cleanup action taken on the fire training area plume. Most of the PFAS-contaminated soil still remains in the ground at the site.

Forbes said the cleanup team has addressed any exposure risks to drinking water in the area.

The AFCEC cleanup team is also looking to expand their PFAS investigation at the Flight Line Operable Unit on the base – several small PFAS sites that are now being grouped together by the team.

In an email to CAI, Forbes said that recent tests “all indicate there are additional sources of PFAS along the western end of the flight line which is why we plan to expand our ongoing investigation into that area.”

The Massachusetts Army National Guard’s cleanup team also presented at last week’s Cleanup Team meeting. They gave an update on tracking PFAS near public water supplies on the base.

Earlier this year, PFAS were detected over state limits in two groundwater samples collected on part of the base called the J-2 range.

The Army spent about $1.5 million to install new monitoring wells there. They took the protective measure because a well that’s part of the Upper Cape’s drinking water supply is nearby.

Jodi Lyn Cutler is Remediation Manager at the Joint Base. She shared new data at last week’s meeting, saying no PFAS were found over state limits.

“I’m pleased to say that our results show no exceedances in the new wells.”

Cutler said her team will submit a report on next steps for all the Army’s PFAS investigations on the Joint Base by late spring.

PFAS are referred to as forever chemicals because they don’t break down over time and exposure to them has been linked to higher risk for some cancers.

Brian Engles is an author, a Cape Cod local, and a producer for Morning Edition.

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