Silent Spring Institute Research Update

September 17, 2015

Institute scientists to discuss new research on chemicals of concern in drinking water, sustainable wastewater management, and rapid chemical safety screening


Thursday, October 8, 2015


12:00–1:30 p.m.
Barnstable Town Hall, 2nd Floor Hearing Room, 367 Main Street, Hyannis
(Lunch will be served)


Ruthann Rudel, MS, Director of Research
Laurel Schaider, PhD, Research Scientist

Highly fluorinated chemicals in wastewater

Highly fluorinated chemicals (known as PFASs or PFCs) are persistent, harmful chemicals found in many non-stick, stain-resistant, and waterproof products. They are ubiquitous in the environment and can accumulate in the body. The U.S. EPA has identified PFASs as priority drinking water contaminants. Silent Spring Institute researchers have found PFASs in over half of the private drinking water wells tested on Cape Cod. Elevated levels of PFASs, originating from foams used by firefighters to extinguish gas and oil fires, were found in several Hyannis municipal wells, prompting the municipality to install new drinking water treatment systems in recent months. PFASs also can be found in household wastewater, which can carry the harmful chemicals into groundwater as well as drinking water. We will discuss recent Silent Spring Institute testing for PFASs in wastewater from septic systems and discuss other potential sources of PFASs in Cape drinking water.

Overcoming barriers to adoption of alternative wastewater solutions

To address the harmful effects of excessive nutrient pollution – when large amounts of nutrients from human activities enter the environment, contaminating the water – Cape communities are looking into various conventional and alternative solutions for improving wastewater treatment.  We will discuss key findings from a recent study conducted in conjunction with Northeastern University on attitudes towards one of the proposed alternative solutions – eco-toilets – and recommendations for overcoming barriers to their adoption.

Developing tools for rapid chemical safety screening

Of the thousands of chemicals on the market, the vast majority have never been safety tested because of inadequate regulations and lack of cost-effective tools for screening chemicals.  To address this issue, Silent Spring Institute has embarked on a new research effort to develop ultra-fast chemical screening tools that will allow researchers to test hundreds of chemicals at once and zero in on those most likely to increase breast cancer risk. This high-throughput screening technology will help government agencies regulate chemicals more effectively and assist companies in developing greener products.