Fire Academy Threatened With Suit Over Groundwater Pollution from AFFF

The Barnstable County Fire Academy on Cape Cod, Massachusetts, is facing an environmental lawsuit and possible shut down over ground water pollution attributed to the use of firefighting foams over the years.

According to local officials, two wells that provide drinking water to several area communities had to be closed last spring due to elevated levels perfluorooctane sulfonate, abbreviated PFOS. The wells are adjacent to the academy.

PFOS is known to be a component of Aqueous Film Forming Foam (AFFF). The academy stopped using AFFF in 2009 based on a report prepared by an environmental group, Silent Spring Institute.

The Town of Barnstable claims it spent $772,000 to install carbon treatment systems to purify water from the two contaminated wells, and expects to incur future costs of nearly $300,000 per year to maintain the systems. Town Attorney Charles McLaughlin sent the county a demand letter for a $3 million assurance payment to the settle its claims, or else it will file suit. McLaughlin also wants the academy closed.

The Barnstable County Fire Academy provides a regional fire academy to approximately 20 fire departments in the area, and has a strong reputation in region.

Here is copy of the demand letter: NoticeUnder-Massachusetts-General-Laws-Chapter

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 40 years of fire service experience and 30 as a practicing attorney licensed in both Rhode Island and Maine. His background includes 29 years as a career firefighter in Providence (retiring as a Deputy Assistant Chief), as well as volunteer and paid on call experience. He is the author of two books: Legal Considerations for Fire and Emergency Services, (2006, 2nd ed. 2011, 3rd ed. 2014) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.

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