Researchers Seeking Private Wells on Cape Cod for Contaminants Study

CCB MEDIA PHOTO: Dr. Laurel Schaider with the Silent Spring Institute.

HYANNIS – A federally funded research project on highly fluorinated chemicals kicks off on Cape Cod this week.

The five-year STEEP Superfund Research Project by The University of Rhode Island, Harvard and the Silent Spring Institute will study contaminants in drinking water, or PFASs.

PFASs are a class of chemicals added to consumer products that make them non-stick, waterproof and stain resistant. They are also used in industrial processes and firefighting foams.

The project aims to understand how they impact the public through well water, determine where they are coming from and find ways to limit exposure.

Silent Spring Institute researcher Dr. Laurel Schaider says researchers are looking for private well owners in Barnstable County to sign up for free water testing.

“In each year of the study we will be able to test water from about 50 homes on Cape Cod,” Schaider said. “If someone’s well is selected to be part of this study, members of our team will come to their home to collect water samples.”

The owners of the wells selected will receive a personalized report of the test results. The researchers will also help interpret the results and give them as much information as possible about potential health effects and potential sources of contamination.

“We will also be sharing information more broadly, summary information, with people on the Cape in general,” Schaider said.

Private well owners interested in volunteering for testing can sign up at Participants will be asked to complete a consent form and questionnaire about their well. Wells will be chosen based on the questionnaire responses.

PFASs are a broad category of chemicals and polymers with an estimation of more than 3,000.

“We have information for a fairly limited number of these chemicals,” Schaider said.

The chemicals that have been studied have been linked to harmful health effects, including cancer, effects on the immune system, impacts on metabolic and liver function, and certain adverse effects in pregnancy.

“For many of the other chemicals in this category we don’t have a lot of health information,” Schaider said.

The chemicals, which are manmade, are extremely persistent.

“There are a lot of concerns about their mobility in the environment and the fact that we are all exposed to these chemicals on a regular basis.” Schaider said.

Drinking water is a major concern, but exposure can also come from other products, including microwave popcorn or waterproof coating on upholstery or rugs.


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