Silent Spring Institute to update Cape Cod residents on water quality, chemical exposure research

September 17, 2014
Cape Cod community presentation flyer

Massachusetts Environment Trust to fund study of persistent wastewater contaminants

Perfluorinated chemicals – persistent, toxic chemicals found in household products and commercial sources – are prevalent in Cape Cod drinking water wells, according to previous studies by Silent Spring Institute. A new study will further investigate septic systems as sources of perfluorinated chemicals into Cape Cod groundwater in order to inform wastewater management planning.

Silent Spring Institute will present this new study, along with updates on recent water quality and chemical exposure research, during its annual Cape Cod community presentation at Barnstable Town Hall, 367 Main Street, Hyannis, on Thursday, October 9th, 12:00-1:30 pm. Lunch will be provided.

Silent Spring Institute was recently awarded a $40,000 grant from the Massachusetts Environmental Trust (MET) to study removal and discharge of perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs) from septic systems and evaluate their role as sources of PFCs into Cape Cod groundwater and drinking water. PFCs are used in household items such as nonstick cookware and stain- and water-resistant clothing and furnishings. Researchers will also compare PFC levels in Cape drinking water to those in drinking water nationwide. “Understanding discharges of PFCs into Cape Cod groundwater from septic systems and other sources is a key step in shaping water management decisions that protect both ecosystem health and drinking water quality,” said Dr. Laurel Schaider, research scientist, who leads the Institute’s Cape water research.

Prior Silent Spring Institute studies found PFCs in public and private drinking water wells throughout Cape Cod, with the highest levels approaching health-based guidelines. The US EPA has identified PFCs as priority pollutants due to their health effects and persistence in the environment, and is considering regulating some PFCs in drinking water. PFCs have been linked to a range of health effects, including mammary tumors and liver damage in animals and cancer and hormone disruption in people.  

Dr. Schaider will also discuss an ongoing study, funded in part by MET, on removal of PFCs, pharmaceuticals, and other household wastewater contaminants in homes that install eco-toilets as part of a demonstration project by the Town of Falmouth, as well as describe proposed future research plans.

Massachusetts Environmental Trust will provide roughly $429,000 in grants to thirteen organizations this year, funded exclusively by motorists who purchase one of the Trust’s specialty license plates. MET license plates, including their signature Whale Plate, are the only specialty plates that exclusively fund water-focused environmental programs. 

The October 9th presentation will also feature a recent study that identified 17 groups of everyday chemicals linked to breast cancer. “Our study provides a roadmap for prioritizing chemicals in future health studies and offers women tips to avoid breast carcinogens in their daily lives,” said Janet Ackerman, study co-author and co-presenter at the Hyannis meeting.