Barnstable County Officials Discuss Future of Water Quality Testing

Cyanobacteria at Goose Pond. Town of Chatham.

HYANNIS – A local public health official said Barnstable County could become a leader in testing for cyanobacteria in Massachusetts.  

Health and Environment Director Sean O’Brien gave an update on water quality testing at a recent Barnstable County Commissioners meeting on January 4.

O’Brien said his department has been developing analysis for cyanobacteria and has coordinated with the Association to Preserve Cape Cod and local boards of health for confirmatory testing. 

“As that starts to develop, that as a potential revenue source, what it also allows us to do is potentially be the laboratory for the entire commonwealth of Massachusetts,” he said.

O’Brien said that the county has had initial talks with the state Department of Public Health for Barnstable to possibly serve that role. 

He added that currently many towns in Massachusetts send samples to a laboratory in Connecticut. 

O’Brien said some new gear arrived at the water quality lab in recent weeks, including GC-MS equipment. (GC-MS is used to analyze volatile organic compounds in water.)

O’Brien said the new machine will be used for testing drinking water while the previous one will be used for groundwater testing. 

O’Brien also noted the arrival of new liquid chromatography dual mass spectrometry equipment. The county commissioners asked if there would be sources of revenue coming in from the purchases.

“I see a lot of potential revenue from this. As we look at that along with the PFAS project, I see them working hand in hand as potentially bringing in revenue,” O’Brien said.

He noted that the department’s capital requests were mostly ARPA-funded, including $459,000 in lab equipment.

With local waters experiencing several closures due to cyanobacteria in recent months, Commissioner Sheila Lyons referenced a recent New York Times article examining the water quality issues facing the region. 

“In there, embedded, there was a statement, ‘how they handle this is going to be an indicator for future communities,’” Lyons said.

“So we really are a ground zero and we really could make a mark nationally, as well as statewide,” she added.

By Brian Engles, NewsCenter

About Brian Engles

Brian Engles is a longtime local of the Cape. He studied Film & TV at Boston University and in addition to his role at Cape Cod Broadcasting Media, he also works as a music instructor and records original songs.
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