Wellesley’s interim system for getting rid of nasty chemicals dubbed PFAS6 from the water processed by its Morses Pond treatment plant has done the trick, and the plant is set to go back online this Saturday, June 18. The plant has been shut down since May of 2021 after elevated levels of these forever chemicals was detected in the town’s drinking water from four groundwater wells.
Town Meeting approved $1.5M to install the mitigation system, and the town was able to use American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to cover the cost of the system, expected to run for about 16 months. While taxpayers got off easy there, the purchase of Per- and PolyFluoroAlkyl Substances (PFAS)-free but pricier water from the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA) will lead to a steep hike in water bills.
And just because the plant is going back online and PFAS6 is now at a non-detect level doesn’t mean residents and businesses can run their sprinklers around the clock. The Morses Pond treatment plant will only be operating at about 40% capacity, so outdoor watering restrictions are back in place likely throughout summer.
The Department of Public Works will seek to recommend a long-term solution to the PFAS problem at an upcoming Special or Annual Town Meeting. It originally looked as though the town might implement a $5M-plus permanent system, but it reconsidered in light of other possible options, including working with the MWRA on a way to get more water from it. PFAS mitigation is a moving target, as the state and feds mull broader testing.
Also underway are efforts to determine the source of PFAS in Wellesley’s water.