Congresswoman Katherine Clark (MA-5) stopped by the South Natick dam earlier this week to promote the clean water infrastructure provisions in the recently signed Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.
Local Natick town government representatives were in attendance as Clark spoke about how Massachusetts is poised to receive $12.5 billion dollars through the law, with just over $1 billion dollars dedicated to improving water infrastructure. She said the Act will provide funds related to detecting and removing toxic PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) from Natick’s, and the country’s, water.
PFAS is a group of fluoridated organic chemicals widely used in consumer products and firefighting foams because of their ability to repel water and oil. Teflon, stain resistant fabrics, dental floss, and more all contain these toxic chemicals, which are often referred to as forever chemicals because they do not break down. PFAS chemicals have been linked to cancers, thyroid disease, reproductive disorders, and more.
Elevated levels of PFAS were detected in Natick’s water just over a year ago.
“Access to drinkable water is a health issue and a racial and environmental justice issue…ensuring that everyone has access to clean, lead-free water is non negotiable,” Clark said.
The law, the largest investment in clean drinking water and waste water infrastructure in American history, includes a $55 billion investment to eliminate lead service lines and pipes nationwide, and help to clean up dangerous PFAS chemicals. $10 billion will go toward eliminating and detecting PFAS chemicals from water—$23 million will be distributed this year and will be targeted toward underserved and disadvantaged communities. In addition, $1.1 billion in funding has been set aside for Massachusetts over five years to improve water infrastructure across the state.
Emily Norton from the Charles River Watershed Association noted, “The Charles has greater than 50 parts per trillion levels of PFAS. The limit set by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection is 20 parts per trillion”
Most environmental experts say that the rate should be no more than 1 part per trillion.
Natick Select Board member Paul Joseph said “It’s not lost on me that we’re standing in front of the sacred river of the native peoples from which Natick was founded…government is in service of the people, and we’ve had a reckoning of sorts over the past year,” while Rep David Linsky called the Act “incredibly important legislation.”