Mashpee Officials Unhappy With Military Communication

MASHPEE – In a recent meeting with representatives from Joint Base Cape Cod, Mashpee select board members voiced their frustrations with what they say are poor lines of communication with the Massachusetts National Guard and other military services on Cape.

The meeting was part of annual briefings between base officials and the town, and featured Lt. Col. Mathew Porter alongside other officials such as Remediation Program Manager for the Air Force Rose Forbes.

During the meeting, Forbes outlined ongoing efforts that the base is undertaking to remove contaminants from the region’s drinking water, including PFAS.

She said that recent efforts were focusing on a plume originating out of the fire training area that affected both Ashumet and Johns Pond, as well as downgradient from Sandwich Road in Falmouth to about the Quashnet River in Mashpee, close to Route 28.

Other cleanup efforts involving two rollover accidents that required the use of PFAS-based firefighting foams at the Otis Rotary are also being investigated by the Remediation Program.

PFAS contamination had also been traced back to various firefighting foam uses across the base, but Forbes said that they have yet to be addressed by the Remediation Program.

“Those areas are a little bit behind. They’re in what’s called the Expanded Site Inspection that we’re finishing up next,” said Forbes.

“We’re very busy with PFAS. We’re still in the investigation phase, though.”

Ninety-three units at the Lakeside Estates Trailer Park required hooking up to another water source due to PFAS contamination in the water supply, and the Mashpee Village Public Water Supply Well required treatment with activated carbon to remove the contaminant.

Both incidents were handled by military officials as the cause was traced back to the base’s operations.

Meanwhile, the Turner Road wells have a lower contamination amount that does not exceed the EPA lifetime health advisory, so Forbes said the Remediation Program cannot address it due to Air Force policy only allowing intervention if the concentration exceeds the federal standard.

Forbes said the program can address it once they get to the feasibility study phase of the program, however that won’t be until mid-2022. 

When it comes to compensation for Mashpee residents, the road is even longer due to the investigation’s timeline.

“At a minimum, it’s going to be at least three years until you can even start talking to us about compensating the community. That obviously is a problem for the community,” said select board member Andrew Gottlieb during the meeting. 

“So, just to be clear about it then, the position is that the state’s drinking water standards apply to us, but not to [the Air Force] if your contamination is same-source. And if we want to comply, then it’s on our nickel to do it or shut the source down.”

Gottlieb expressed frustration that the military has not had to assist in town compliance with state mandates despite being the source of multiple sources of contamination, citing the contamination involving the Briarwood Plume that led to the town fighting “tooth and nail” to have the military provide compensation for the incident.

“We are getting stonewalled, and we have to pay the cost of it because the United States military doesn’t want to own up to its responsibility. If you have any question on why on matters related to the machine gun range or other operational things there’s skepticism, concern and cynicism about the good neighbor policy—tours are great, but I’d rather have you clean up my water,” said Gottlieb.

“If you ever wonder why you feel like the community is against you; look at the way you’re treating us.” 

Gottlieb requested a master list of all planned activities for the base over the next few years.

Joint Base officials said that no other major training or construction plans are in the works besides the planned machine gun range and support buildings, but Gottlieb said he was interested in knowing specific details. 

Officials said that they try to reach out to the public about ongoing projects through tours and meetings, however they said that they get few to no attendees from the public, leading to the perceived lack of communication.

Approximately $1.4 billion dollars has been spent on contaminant clean-up projects around the base.

About Grady Culhane

Grady Culhane is a Cape Cod native from Eastham. He studied media communications at Cape Cod Community College and joined the News Center in 2019.
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