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In Wake Of Farmington River Contamination, Westfield, Mass., Works On Its Well Problem

Running water out of a faucet.
Austin Kirk
Creative Commons / flickr.com/photos/aukirk

Connecticut officials continue to deal with pollution in the Farmington River from chemicals in firefighting foam. It's a problem Westfield, Massachusetts, is very familiar with.

Four wells in Westfield were contaminated with PFAS chemicals, which were discharged in the foam used at Barnes Airport.

One well is running on a temporary filtration system, and two others are due to be back online later this summer. That's when the first of two permanent treatment plants will be completed.

Heather Stayton, systems engineer with the Westfield water department, said getting the wells back online will give the city some wiggle room. 

"They will refill our storage tanks faster to maintain good pressure throughout the system," Stayton said. "They allow us to respond if there are any problems, if there was a water main break, or there was an issue at a tank, or there was an issue with a pump."

Stayton said they will be testing the affected wells monthly instead of quarterly as required by the state.

"What we've decided as a city is while we're bringing these things online, we want to have more frequent monitoring so that we've got a better understanding of how the treatment is operating," she said.

More frequent testing, Stayton said, will allow Westfield officials to detect any trace of PFAS in the water quicker.

Westfield is suing the foam's manufacturers in federal court to try to recoup the millions the filters will cost.

The companies say they plan to defend themselves in the case. One of the manufacturers, 3M, said in a statement: “3M acted responsibly in connection with its manufacture and sale of AFFF (aqueous film-forming foam) and will vigorously defend its record of environmental stewardship.”

A spokesman for Johnson Controls, owners of two other companies named in the suit — Tyco and Chemguard — said in a separate statement: "Tyco and Chemguard acted appropriately and responsibly at all times in producing our firefighting foams. We make our foams to exacting military standards, and the U.S. military and civilian firefighters have depended for decades on these foams to extinguish life-threatening fires. They continue to use them safely and reliably for that purpose today. We will vigorously defend this lawsuit."

The Air Force and Air National Guard are also named in the suit. 

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