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Massachusetts Announces Waste Site Clean Up as well as Drinking Water Standards for Six PFAS “Forever” Chemical Compounds Featured

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On December 13, 2019, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (“MassDEP”) announced final as well as proposed regulations to address Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances or “PFAS”, a family of man-made chemicals known as the “forever chemicals” due to their persistence in the environment. Only a handful of other states are regulating PFAS.

Numbering in the thousands with many created over 50 years ago, PFAS are water soluble, extremely stable and persistent, so do not fully degrade. These properties make them popular for use in a wide variety of products, such as water repellent fabrics, non-stick coatings, consumer products, and fire-fighting foam.

Studies show, however, that exposure to some PFAS at elevated levels may cause a variety of health issues, including development effects on fetuses and infants, effects on the thyroid, liver, kidneys, certain hormones and the immune system. Certain PFAS have been discovered to be quite toxic even at very low levels. According to MassDEP’s website, scientists and regulators are still working to study and better understand the health risks posed by exposures to PFAS.

Recently, PFAS have been discovered in public drinking water supplies in at least fourteen different communities throughout Massachusetts.

To address PFAS, MassDEP is promulgating final regulations in its waste clean-up program and issuing proposed regulations in its public drinking water program.

As of December 27, 2019, parties responsible for cleaning up contaminated waste sites in Massachusetts will have to clean up groundwater that could be used as drinking water to meet a new standard in the Massachusetts Contingency Plan or “MCP” (310 CMR 40.000) of 20 parts per trillion (ppt) for the sum of six PFAS compounds.

There are also new MCP standards for the clean-up of soils, with specific standards for each of the six PFAS.

These PFAS are perfluorodecanoic acid (“PFDA”), perfluoroheptanoic acid (“PFHpA”), perfluorohexane sulfonic acid (“PFHxS”), perfluorononanoic acid (“PFNA”), perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (“PFOS”), and perfluorooctanoic acid (“PFOA”).

Wishing to coordinate efforts, MassDEP’s drinking water program is proposing new drinking water standards on December 27, 2019 for the same six PFAS compounds. MassDEP proposes setting a Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) for drinking water of the sum of 20 parts per trillion (ppt) for these six PFAS compounds. Presently, there is no Federal MCL for PFAS, only an EPA health advisory for PFOA and PFOS of 70 ppt.

Water suppliers will have to collect sample for PFAS and report to MassDEP. Depending on the level of PFAS found, the water supplier may have to meet additional testing, monitoring, and reporting requirements. The implementation of these new drinking water regulations would be staggered, based on the population served and type of system.

Public hearings on these draft drinking water regulations (310 CMR 22.00) will be held throughout the state beginning in early January 2020. More information about these proposed regulations are available on MassDEP’s website.

McGregor & Legere, P.C. handles matters under the MCP, so can assist in complying with these new PFAS standards. Also, for interested clients, we can file comments on the proposed new MassDEP drinking water regulations.


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Nathaniel Stevens, Esq.

NATHANIEL STEVENS, Esq. is a Partner of McGregor Legere & Stevens PC. Since being admitted to the Massachusetts Bar in 1996, he has handled a broad range of environmental and land use matters, from administrative law to litigation. He has helped clients with environmental issues including permitting, development, contamination, transactions, conservation, real estate restrictions, underground tanks, water supply, water pollution, subdivision control, tidelands licensing, Boston and state zoning, coastal and inland wetlands, stormwater, air pollution, and energy facility siting.

Mr. Stevens’ work includes state court litigation over liability for property damage, insurance claims for environmental damage, cost-recovery for contamination cleanups, and damage to municipal lands and public natural resources. His permit-related and administrative litigation includes bringing and defending challenges to conservation commission permits for wetlands work, interpreting and enforcing conservation restrictions, and reviewing decisions by the Department of Environmental Protection (“MassDEP”). He handles adjudicatory proceedings in MassDEP, the Division of Administrative Law Appeals (“DALA”), the Energy Facilities Siting Board, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”).

In addition to litigation, Mr. Stevens has utilized dispute resolution and other problem-solving skills to efficiently and effectively achieve his client’s goals. This includes working with land owners and land conservation organizations on a variety of permitting, land use, and management issues.

Mr. Stevens has conducted training through the Citizen Planner Training Collaborative (“CPTC”) for Planning Boards and Zoning Boards of Appeals on the Zoning Act and Subdivision Control Law. He has led Massachusetts Association of Conservation Commission (“MACC”) workshops and training units for Conservation Commissions on the Wetlands Protection Act, Home Rule, the Open Meeting Law, and the Public Records Law.

Mr. Stevens has written for legal and environmental publications on subjects including wetlands protection law at the local and state level, quorum requirements for local boards and commissions, MassDEP regulatory reforms, Home Rule and preemption, EPA programs, and state Brownfields Law. His articles on changes to the Wetlands Protection Act and to the Permit Extension Act have been published by the Real Estate Bar Association, MACC, and the American Council of Engineering Companies of Massachusetts (“ACEC-MA”).

Mr. Stevens is a member of the American, Massachusetts, and Boston Bar Associations. He recently served as Co-chair of the Public Policy Committee of the BBA's Real Estate Section.

Mr. Stevens is a member of the Arlington Conservation Commission on which he served as Chair for many years. He served on the Board of Directors of the Arlington Land Trust, Inc. and on the Executive Committee and the Board of Directors of the Lake Sunapee Protective Association, a New Hampshire member-supported nonprofit education and research watershed protection organization.

Prior to law school, Mr. Stevens was awarded a John Knauss Sea Grant Fellowship to study national marine policy in Washington, D.C. During and after this national fellowship, he worked on wetlands policy issues in EPA’s Wetlands Division. In his first year of law school, Mr. Stevens was awarded “Best Brief” in Moot Court Competition. In his second year of law school, he obtained through a writing competition a position on one of the school’s two law journals and published an article on hydropower.

Mr. Stevens is a graduate of Vassar College and Suffolk University Law School (cum laude), with a Masters of Science in Natural Resource Policy and Planning from the University of Michigan’s School of Natural Resources.

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