Hampden County (MA) near Barnes Air National Guard Base
In 2019, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) started exposure assessments (EAs) in communities near current or former military bases known to have had per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in their drinking water. Individuals who participated in the EAs provided blood and urine samples to CDC/ATSDR for analysis. We sent letters to participants that included their individual lab results. An example letter of the test results letter and the community level results are available here. We also sent local health care providers exposure assessment information and clinician guidance on PFAS pdf icon[PDF – 471 KB].
As early as the 1980s, the Barnes Air National Guard Base (the Base) used aqueous film forming foam containing PFAS for its firefighting training. These compounds later moved off-site in groundwater, likely affecting both municipal and private drinking water wells located downgradient of the Base.
In 2013, when PFAS was first detected, the Westfield Water Department and the Massachusetts Department Environmental Protection (MassDEP) took actions to ensure the quality of the drinking water in Westfield. These actions over the next several years included removing three drinking water supply wells from service and placing temporary water restrictions on all non-essential water use. Presently, the Westfield Department of Public Works (DPW)–Water Division’s primary sources of drinking water are from surface water and groundwater sources meeting federal and state PFAS guidelines. The Westfield DPW-Water Division installed a temporary treatment system. This system ensures that PFAS levels in the treated water are below detection limits. The Westfield DPW-Water Division is in the process of installing permanent treatment on its four affected wells. The Westfield DPW-Water Division continues to test its water sources and pursue system improvements to address PFAS contamination. Nearby private wells were sampled and, if needed, filtration systems were installed.
ATSDR has been made aware that there may be confusion about current PFAS levels in the City of Westfield drinking water system. Based on the information ATSDR has reviewed, current drinking water sources meet all federal and state guidelines. ATSDR does not recommend community members use alternative sources of water.
The exposure assessments assess people’s past exposures to PFAS via drinking water. Local authorities in Westfield have taken action to reduce levels of PFAS in drinking water that were measured in the past. Because PFAS stay in people’s bodies for a long time we can still measure them in community members years after drinking water exposures end. This information will be used to compare PFAS levels in this community to the general U.S. population.
Participating in an exposure assessment helps individual participants and their community better understand the extent of environmental exposures to PFAS. A random selection selection of households impacted by PFAS in their drinking water were identified. Selected households received a letter in the mail from CDC/ATSDR explaining the exposure assessment and registration process. They also received a phone call from a representative to answer questions and register them for the exposure assessment. Household members were eligible if they were 3 years of age or older, did not have a bleeding disorder and were not anemic, and have lived in the recruitment area since January 20, 2015. Inclusion of children in the exposure assessment was dependent on parent or legal guardian consent.
CDC/ATSDR began an exposure assessment in Westfield in summer 2019. Recruitment took approximately 6 weeks. CDC/ATSDR was in Westfield from September 4 through September 17, 2019 to test participants.
CDC/ATSDR completed the analysis of environmental and biological samples. Individual test results were mailed to participants on May 8, 2020. If you participated in the exposure assessment and have not received your individual test results, please contact ATSDR at PFAS@cdc.gov. CDC and ATSDR will write a final report summarizing the findings and recommendations for the community and present the results at a public meeting.