Town Meeting Will Consider Proposal to Rehabilitate Shawsheen Road Wells

A component of the capital article on the May 15 annual town meeting warrant offers steps to a possible resurrection of the town wells off Shawsheen Road.

According to a summary in the warrant, the proposal “will fund a study to determine if water blending of the three wells is a viable option to remain in compliance with the new PFAS regulations, or if a treatment plant is required.”

The wellfields were deactivated more than a year ago as a precaution after the presence of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) was confirmed in the adjacent Shawsheen River, which recharges the wellfield.

The source of the chemicals has not been determined. PFAS were contained in foam once used for fighting petroleum fires in aircraft crash response and training by the Air Force at Hanscom Field.

The synthetic chemicals measured in the well water were below state limits for safe consumption, but town officials didn’t want to take any chances. The wells supply about 15 percent of the daily water supply; the remainder is through Lexington from the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority.

Since then, have you noticed any difference in the water supply or quality? Probably not. So why is there a proposal in the fiscal 2022 capital project article to spend $103,000 studying possible ways to rehabilitate the wells?

Two reasons, said officials from the Department of Public Works.

The town’s agreement with the MWRA stipulates that if there are local water sources, they should be prioritized, said Adrienne St. John, town engineer. And local water is less costly than the metropolitan supply imported from the Quabbin Reservoir, noted Director David Manugian.

All of Bedford’s water needs were supplied by local wells until June 1978, when organic chemicals that could be carcinogens were discovered in water emanating from the most productive wells, off Middlesex Turnpike.

Water purchase agreements from contiguous towns helped compensate until Bedford was accepted into the MWRA system. St. John said the town is obligated to do what it takes to sustain and develop local alternatives as part of that agreement. Indeed, in 1984 the town developed and opened new wells off Hartwell Road that were soon closed because of contamination.

Manugian said information from the research could result in efforts to safely restore the wells to active use. “We are learning new things about PFAS every day,” Manugian said, adding that the town will be seeking guidance from the state Department of Environmental Protection.

The warrant says that if there are remaining funds, they “ will be used for removal or replacement of the underground sodium hydroxide storage tank and other minor site-related improvements.”

Mike Rosenberg can be reached at, or 781-983-1763

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