Massachusetts Governor Proposes Bill to Fund PFAS Cleanup

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker filed a bill for supplemental spending in early September that includes funding for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (“PFAS”) cleanup efforts across the state.  Manufacturers widely incorporated PFAS (a collection of over 4,000 chemicals) into numerous products starting in the 1950s, useful for their non-stick, stain-resistant, and water-resistant properties.  Due to the durable nature of these chemicals, PFAS are also extremely persistent in the environment and the human body.  This persistent nature alarmed public health and environmental activists when they found PFAS in countless public waterways around the country.

The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (“DEP”) discovered excess levels of PFAS in water supplies in Westfield, Shirley, Middleton, Mashpee, Hudson, Harvard, Barnstable, and Ayer.  While each of these communities are taking action to address the heightened PFAS levels, testing and remediation measures are costly.  Governor Baker’s September 2019 bill proposed $8.4 million to test for PFAS in drinking water supplies and an additional $20 million to assist with projects for PFAS remediation.  This funding would assist towns and cities across the state by offsetting a portion of the enormous cost of PFAS remediation.

Do Artificial Turf Fields Pose Cancer Risk?

Recent studies of artificial turf (used on thousands of playgrounds and athletic fields around the country) revealed the presence of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (“PFAS”).  Exposure to PFAS, through environmental contamination, drinking water, and use of consumer products, is suspected to impact human health in a number of ways, including various types of cancer and birth defects.  The tested section of turf contained 190 parts per trillion of a common PFAS chemical, which well exceeds the federal standard for drinking water.

With approximately 13,000 turf fields throughout the United States, public health advocacy groups are worried that all waterways surrounding these fields are contaminated with PFAS in excess of federal and state standards.  The turf is designed to drain the fields of water, thereby ensuring that soluble chemicals from the turf are drained into surrounding waterways and groundwater.  A recent study of young athletes with cancer out of the University of Washington suggests a possible correlation with PFAS-containing turf (but no concrete evidence was presented to back up this theory to date).  While no direct correlation between use of PFAS-containing artificial turf and human health risks has been made, manufacturers of artificial turf are being urged to phase out their use of PFAS.

Our attorneys have been at the forefront of PFAS issues, including giving presentations as to the future waves of litigation stemming from PFAS issues. For more information, please contact any of our PFAS – Toxic Torts Team: Alexandra Fraher, Jessica Deyoe, Suzanne Englot, or John Gardella.