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PFAS Contamination Concerns Now Raised At Canton Elementary School

Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection
Firefighting foam that spilled into the Farmington River in June 2019.

The town of Canton is holding an informational meeting Wednesday night about possible contamination at Cherry Brook Primary School. Firefighting foam was released on school property in 2014 and emerging evidence indicates some of the chemicals found in those foams are toxic to humans and the environment.

Firefighters from the Canton Volunteer Fire Department were training on school grounds and released about 40 gallons of firefighting concentrate containing PFAS compounds, according to Jennifer Kertanis, director of health for the Farmington Valley Health District.

That concentrate was mixed with about 1,300 gallons of water. PFAS compounds are a family of chemicals linked to a variety of bad health effects including liver and developmental problems. Kertanis said the main concern right now is possible water contamination.

Cherry Brook School gets its water from two wells, located about 250 feet from where the foam was released. Those wells are now being tested for PFAS.

“The tests have been collected and set off to a laboratory,” Kertanis said. “We anticipate getting results in three to four weeks. But in the meantime, a clean alternative water supply is currently being used at the school.”

In a letter to parents dated Wednesday, Nov. 6, Superintendent of Schools Kevin Case said, “on Oct. 31st, the town was made aware of fire training exercises at Cherry Brook School that involved the use of polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).”

“In an abundance of caution and until such time as test results are available, we have made arrangements for an alternative source of water for Cherry Brook Primary School,” Case said. “The wells have been shut off.”

PFAS chemicals have been linked to a variety of bad health effects including liver and developmental problems.

Kertanis said she “can’t speak to” why volunteer firefighters used the foam on school grounds.

The meeting takes place at 7 PM at Cherry Brook Primary School.

This story has been updated based on new information released at a town meeting on Wednesday, Nov. 13.

Patrick Skahill is a reporter and digital editor at Connecticut Public. Prior to becoming a reporter, he was the founding producer of Connecticut Public Radio's The Colin McEnroe Show, which began in 2009. Patrick's reporting has appeared on NPR's Morning Edition, Here & Now, and All Things Considered. He has also reported for the Marketplace Morning Report. He can be reached at pskahill@ctpublic.org.

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