CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — The city of Cambridge is temporarily switching the source of its drinking water after finding elevated levels of toxic “forever chemicals" in its water supply, the city said in a statement.
The PFAS levels in the water are above what state standards allow, Friday's statement said.
The city across the Charles River from Boston and home to Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology will get water for its nearly 120,000 residents from the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority’s system starting Tuesday until November, when it is expected to install a new filter at its water treatment facility.
“Replacing the filter media will ensure that our PFAS levels will be reliably and consistently below the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection regulatory standard in the short and long term,” water department Director Sam Corda said.
PFAS, which stands for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, have been linked to cancer and other health problems in humans. They are called “forever chemicals” because they don’t degrade in the environment and remain in the bloodstream. They were used for years in firefighting foams, nonstick frying pans, water-repellent fabrics, stain-resistant rugs, and other products.
Cambridge, the state's fourth-largest city, gets its water from the Stony Brook Watershed in the Charles River Basin. MWRA water is from the Quabbin and Wachusett reservoirs.
Massachusetts in May sued more than a dozen companies involved in the manufacture or marketing of forever chemicals, alleging they knowingly polluted the environment and endangered public health. The chemicals have polluted more than 126 public drinking water systems in 86 Massachusetts communities, the suit said.
City Councilor Quinton Zondervan wants the city to switch to MWRA water permanently because of Cambridge's elevated PFAS levels.
“We just don’t know what is, or is not, a safe level. And that’s a huge problem,” he told The Boston Globe.
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