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Member Research and Reports

Member Research and Reports

BU: High Levels of Contaminants Found in Holliston Drinking Water

A new study led by Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH) researchers has found moderate to high levels of a number of chemical contaminants in the well water, soil water, and underground water in Holliston, Massachusetts.

The study was published in Water.

About half of the drinking water in the United States comes from aquifers  — underground layers of permeable rock from which groundwater can be extracted. Very shallow aquifers are important sources for drinking water in small and rural communities but are also especially vulnerable to chemical contaminants such as manganese (Mn), mercury (Hg), and trichloroethylene (TCE).

To address community concerns of discolored drinking water in Holliston, the researchers profiled five different sites adjacent to residential areas for contaminant releases: The Waste Transfer Station, the Combustion Research Center, the Axton Cross, the Bird Property, and Lake Winthrop. Each site was chosen due to its previous link to diesel fuel spills, flame retardants, illegal landfills, or overloading of fertilizers.

Based on publicly available data and information from site assessments from the 1960s onward, the researchers concluded that it was “likely” multiple chemicals from these sites had entered the drinking water supply.  They found moderate to high levels of Mn, Hg, and solvents in well water, soil water, or groundwater in multiple locations between 1987 and 2013. The researchers wrote that the findings suggest the area’s aquifer system is also vulnerable.

The authors called for integrated approaches that involve affected communities in addressing environmental contaminants. They also highlighted the need for new water treatment technologies.

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