fb-pixelOur water is contaminated — where is the will to do something about it? - The Boston Globe Skip to main content

Our water is contaminated — where is the will to do something about it?

DPW director Tom Holder watches the operation this month as Wayland distributes bottled water to the public. The town is dealing with elevated levels of PFAS found in its public water sources.Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff

We can’t solve this problem with bottled water and filtration systems

In David Abel’s article about PFAS contamination in water (“Towns facing water crises: Officials scramble after alarming tests,” Page A1, May 24), he notes, “Some assert that the chemicals are so toxic, no quantity is safe in drinking water.” The “some” Abel is referring to, he goes on to list, are scientists, public health experts, and advocates like us who have been raising concerns for years about these “forever chemicals.”

We appreciate that the state Department of Environmental Protection and other officials are sounding the alarm and acting quickly to ensure that our drinking water is safe. But we cannot solve this problem with bottled water and filtration systems. We need to immediately turn our sights on eliminating — forever — these toxic chemicals from our everyday lives and products. Whether it’s food packaging, cookware, children’s toys, or a host of other consumer products, we need to get to the source of this water pollution and stop it completely.

Deirdre Cummings


Legislative director

Massachusetts Public Interest Research Group


Mass. lawmakers have a number of measures they could take

In “Towns facing water crises,” David Abel writes that state environmental officials have no plans to restrict the use of PFAS in products. That is true, but Massachusetts legislators are currently considering several bills that could do exactly that.

Bills introduced this session include one that bans these “forever chemicals” in food packaging and another that prohibits PFAS from being added to carpets, furniture textiles, car seats, cookware, and personal care products. A third bill would prevent the state from using PFAS-containing pesticides for mosquito control. In addition, the Professional Fire Fighters of Massachusetts, aware of the toll that PFAS exposure is taking on firefighter health, is asking legislators to require all firefighter personal protective equipment to be PFAS-free by 2025.


To protect all of us, the Massachusetts Legislature should act quickly to pass all of these bills into law.

The newly seated state Interagency Task Force on PFAS could go even further. In fall 2019, Europe announced that it would eliminate all uses of PFAS, except those required for health and safety. The task force should follow Europe’s lead.

Otherwise, PFAS will continue to get into our water and into our bodies.

Laura Spark

Senior policy advocate

Clean Water Action


Clean Water Action is a cosponsor of the personal protective equipment bill.

There’s a federal solution that could make an impact

It’s heartbreaking that communities have drinking water contaminated with unacceptably high levels of the toxic chemicals known as PFAS. It is inexcusable to leave towns and cities to fund the costly remedies, from multimillion-dollar filtration systems to finding new water sources. The state is offering another $2 million in assistance, but it is a drop in the bucket of what is needed.

A federal solution is necessary and urgent, and it exists, if we can build the political will to make it part of the president’s American Jobs Plan. The WATER Act (Water Affordability, Transparency, Equity, and Reliability) would address an array of problems plaguing our drinking water and wastewater systems. It would dedicate $35 billion a year to creating a safe, climate-resilient water system that serves everyone, including support for water systems and households with wells to remove PFAS from drinking water.


Our congressional delegation must work to make the WATER Act, which would be fully funded by rollbacks of the Trump administration’s corporate income tax giveaways, part of the infrastructure package.

Michaela Eckel