Community kick-off event on Cape Cod for new STEEP Superfund research center

community meeting on PFASs in drinking water

December 4, 2017, 01:30pm to 03:00pm

On Monday, December 4th, more than 100 community members on Cape Cod, including dozens of local high school students, packed into the hearing room at Barnstable Town Hall to hear about the newly-formed STEEP Superfund research center. The STEEP (Sources, Transport, Exposure and Effects of PFASs) center is a collaboration between Silent Spring Institute, University of Rhode Island (URI), and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. The five-year project, led by URI, will address the emerging problem of highly fluorinated chemicals called PFASs in drinking water—how these chemicals move through our environment, how we are exposed through our drinking water, and how they affect our health. Members of the team provided an overview of the project and the critical involvement of Cape Cod communities in the new center.


Rainer Lohmann (project lead), URI Graduate School of Oceanography
Philippe Grandjean (co-lead), Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
Elsie Sunderland, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
Angela Slitt and Bongsup Cho, URI College of Pharmacy
Geoff Bothun, URI College of Engineering
Judith Swift, URI Coastal Institute
Alyson McCann, URI College of Environment and Life Sciences
Laurel Schaider, Silent Spring Institute

Welcome remarks:
Cheryl Osimo, Silent Spring Institute and Massachusetts Breast Cancer Coalition (MBCC)
Mark Ells, Barnstable Town Manager

BACKGROUND INFORMATION: PFASs are a class of chemicals added to consumer products to make them non-stick, waterproof, and stain-resistant. They are also used in firefighting foams and industrial processes. These chemicals are showing up in drinking water across the U.S., including the Hyannis Water System and private wells near Joint Base Cape Cod. Scientists are concerned about these chemicals because of their potential impacts on health. Because Cape Cod is on the front lines in dealing with exposure to PFASs, Silent Spring Institute and their collaborators at the STEEP Superfund Research Center will be conducting a number of activities on the Cape, including:

  • Testing private wells for PFASs
  • Studying how PFASs enter groundwater from firefighting foams used at Joint Base Cape Cod
  • Field testing new methods to detect PFASs in surface waters
  • Engaging with residents and officials to share STEEP research findings and address local concerns

The STEEP researchers will also study the chemical properties of PFASs and their specific impact on human health through a long-term health study of children in the Faroe Islands complemented by laboratory studies.

Local project partners include MBCC, GreenCAPE, and the Sierra Club Cape & the Islands group. This project is funded by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS).

More information about STEEP:

Media coverage:

Providence Journal (December 3, 2017): URI, Harvard Chan School, Silent Spring to Research Widely Used Chemicals, PFASs
Cape Cod Times (December 4, 2017): Drinking water research launched on Cape Cod

Research Area: