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BCFTA History

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The following provides an overview of contamination of the Mary Dunn Wells as it relates to the past use of firefighting foam at the Barnstable County Fire Training and Rescue Academy, with updates on Barnstable County’s ongoing remediation efforts to mitigate contamination.

Jack Yunits
Barnstable County Administrator
July 17, 2018

History

In 1956 on property owned by the Cobb Family Trust containing approximately 6.2 acres the County Fire Chiefs through Barnstable County began operating the Barnstable Fire Training Academy set up as a critical and necessary life-saving training facility for all the Cape’s firefighters offering programs, education and critical training that the Towns could not otherwise afford. The oversight of the operations at the Academy fell principally to the Hyannis Fire Department from its inception until 1986 when it was turned over to the County. The County acquired title to the real estate in 1983 by way of a deed from the Cobb Family Trust. The conveyance included the land and Flint Rock Pond, approximately 1.5 Acres, as part of the whole 6.2-acre site.

 

Use of Foam

Foam was used in firefighting training across the Cape dating back to the 1950s. The foam used at the Hyannis Airport and the Fire Training Academy until the approximately mid-1970s was a non-toxic protein foam. Companies like 3M and Dupont a decade prior had begun to market a new foam which contained theses complex carbon chains that do not break down, were resistant to dilution, fire resistant, and actually bio-accumulated in the environment making them ideal fire suppressants. As the 70s closed aqueous fire-fighting foams were fast becoming used by firefighters across the Country as a standard operating procedure. Training with foam at airports was required by the FAA. The County never purchased foam and so we have no records of when it became of use at the Academy. When foam was used it was at the discretion of the local chiefs and the foam would be supplied from off-premise. Following the Silent Spring Report in 2009, the County moved to forbid the use of foam at the site and no foam has been used since.

 

Hydrology

In 2016/2017 Tom Cambareri’ s hydrology assessments added a new twist that correlated plume flows to pumping rates illustrating that the traditional paths were altered by pumping rates and the wide fluctuations of the groundwater tables relative to climatic impacts.

 

The Mary Dunn Wells

The Mary Dunn Wells were developed downgradient of the Barnstable WWTP, Hyannis Airport, Hyannis commercial establishments and the BFTA by the Barnstable Water Company in 1975-76 as a seasonal supplement. In 2003 Mass DEP published a Source Water Assessment and Protection Report (SWAP), for the Barnstable Water Company and in it they identified scores of potential sources of contamination including the Airport, BFTA, WWTP, 30 fuel dependent business and repair shops, 75 septic systems, 16 oil and hazardous material sites and much more. Recommendations as to mitigation and monitoring were delivered and ultimately many were phased in after Barnstable purchased the water company in 2006. Indicative of what was stated regarding hydrology and as predicted in the SWAP above in 2006 a perchlorate release from Cape Cod Potato Chips flowed east downgradient through the BFTA and onto the MDW. Tom Cambareri immediately re-engaged a pump and treat system that he had installed prior to the release at the Academy to clean the site from MTBE and other oil accumulations and he added monitoring stations to deal with this latest off-site intrusion. That pump and treat system has been upgraded and is being used today at the BFTA.

Silent Spring

The Silent Spring Report in 2009 took a critical look at Hyannis water and concluded that the intrusion into the regional groundwater of PFOS and PFOA was attributable to multiple sources including the discharge at the WWTP, (treatment at the discharge points for PFOS/ PFOA is not presently mandated), septic releases, a multiple of both industrial and household releases generated from materials that contained Teflon products and scotch guard treated materials (Carpets, rugs, clothing)and AFFF used routinely at the airport and the academy. This report caused the County to ban the use of foam. It also began for the first time to draw the debate on environmental corrective measures because the byproduct of these products was shown to travel in air and water as it bioaccumulated in the system. In 2016 Cambareri tested the faucets at the academy and found that the water that the County was using from the Town hydrants in the Town’s main distribution system contained PFOS / PFOA further compounding a pre-existing challenge. Therefore even though the County was utilizing a pump and treat system to remove the contaminant it was collecting in earnest by attaching to soils and water on the grounds as they spayed. The Town’s prompt response to add the carbon filters and monitoring by Suez has arrested that threat and tests are now negative and they will continue to be so as we work in partnership with the Town.

EPA / HSA

In 2016 the prevalence of PFOS and PFOA in our environment generated an aggressive action from EPA when it issued a Health Safety Advisory (HAS) lowering the minimal level of PFOS and PFOA in drinking water from 200 to 70ug/l.  The Town had already begun the process of creating an open discussion with the County regarding the Academy but solutions were elusive. Thus the Town saddled with significant unanticipated expenses in adding the filters to the MDW commenced a civil action against the County. Under Mass. General Law C21E minimal contact with a contaminated site can trigger responsibility and the cost of remediation is to be borne by all potentially responsible parties not pro-rated by the degree of fault but an ability to pay. Here the parties were faced with a complex challenge and that was to ascertain who the responsible parties might be and litigate. The litigation cost of lawyers and retaining expert witnesses had that become the course of action was sure to be problematic. Finger pointing and blame was not going to solve the ultimate challenge. In 2017, our new Chairman promptly changed direction and a series of settlement discussions began that focused on the people of Hyannis first and the future cleanup to be determined. Please note that the County is a revenue-based funded government under a formula created by Charter in 1988 that has not changed. We have no authority to tax, levy for overrides even to pay judgments beyond the Charter and there is no debt exclusion capacity. To contribute to the settlement was to commit to staff reductions which are already occurring. Chairman Cakounes was adamant that the water is cleaned and we find a way to resolve this without having both parties spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on litigation expenses. Within 6 months thanks to the leadership of your Town Manager a settlement was reached and the County agreed to pay 50% towards the already incurred expenses ($2.95 M) and agreed to reimburse to specific annual O & M expenses including carbon filter replacement and Suez monitoring. The effort to engage with other responsible parties was left to another day because time and clean water were the foremost priorities of both parties. It should be noted that under CERCLA and 21E that manufacturers are not included as potentially responsible parties despite the fact that they put this threat in motion with an implied warranty of fitness even where they knew or reasonably should have known of the probable outcomes and they profited greatly from the product. We pray for our firefighters who used it with no idea of its potential impacts. It should be further noted that these companies have stepped up in States where the Attorney General has engaged on behalf of those citizens impacted and set up clean up funds.

DEP and Jurisdiction

Moving forward the County has two immediate objectives. First is to regrade and cap the so-called hot spot to minimize any further releases immediately and consistent with the requests from the Hyannis Water Board and to berm Flint Rock Pond to your satisfaction. Second, to create a comprehensive renovation of the facility modeled after the Stowe Academy, that will contain the water we use and reuse it. Stowe is upgradient of their wells. Neither EPA nor DEP has set standards regarding soils and ponds but we are committed to working with DEP even employing innovative solutions were feasible to remediate as much as possible as soon as possible. Given our limited revenue sources we envision a long-term process of site remediation and in the interim so long as there are significant detections we will uphold our commitment to Barnstable and its citizens to maintain those filters. It should be further noted that I have assured Mr. Ells that when the pump and treat are down we will not use water. In the interim, the site, the remediation, and the resolutions will remain under the jurisdiction of DEP.

 

Fire Training

Fire training at the academy is a life safety issue not only for our firefighters but for all of the citizens that they serve. The need for training, professional development, and deployment of new equipment and tactics do not abate over time. The programs we offer from combating solar fires on roofs, to maritime readiness, illustrate how we are growing to address relevant local needs. The cost of training one cadet at the fire academy in Stowe until graduation approaches $42,000 with considerable time lost off Cape. At the Academy, training is local run by peers and when possible utilizing the equipment that the fire teams will use on-site plus it is locally affordable. So long as one life can be saved and the quality of life on the Cape improved, the County will make every attempt to make this site beneficial to all and never relent on that goal.

 

READ MASS DEP AUDIT FINDINGS NOTICE – JUNE 1, 2018

READ BARNSTABLE COUNTY’S IMMEDIATE ACTION RESPONSE (IRA) TO MASS DEP – JUNE 28, 2018

READ IMMEDIATE ACTION RESPONSE (IRA) STATUS REPORTS AT MASS DEP

VIEW BARNSTABLE COUNTY PRESENTATION ON WELLS UPDATES TO TOWN OF BARNSTABLE – JULY 17, 2018

 

 

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