Read the full article by Elizabeth Dobbins (Lowell Sun)
“LOWELL — Employees at the wastewater treatment facility in Lowell had some questions and concerns after news reports indicated the plant was accepting waste with high levels of PFAS, a group of harmful chemicals, last November.
Following a call from an employee representative to the Department of Labor Standards, inspectors from the state agency visited the Lowell Regional Wastewater Utility’s Duck Island facility on Jan. 6, according to a report obtained by the Sun through a public information request.
The report issued Jan. 21 required corrective action in one area — the facility needs to purchase ‘chemical splash resistant goggles’ for employees by Feb. 21 — and included several recommendations. However, the inspection ‘did not identify significant potential exposures based on routes of entry into the body, employee tasks and the physical-chemical properties of PFAS compounds.’
PFAS molecules do not easily pass through the skin and do not typically enter the air, according to the report. They’re most likely to enter the body through ingestion.
The Department of Labor Standards recommended the city provide employees with access to all available information on hazardous chemicals contained in the waste accepted by the plant. It also recommended the plant check to ensure the facility has the proper protective equipment whenever new waste streams are introduced.
Keith Rudy, the business agent for the Merrimack Valley Employee Association Unit 1, said he reached out to the Department of Labor Standards on behalf of the union. He said he had questions regarding the city’s legal requirement to inform employees of the presence and concentration of PFAS compounds in the waste.
Rudy said employees ‘knew there was PFAS, but not to the extreme of the articles.’ Some were also concerned about the process of cleaning out the tanks after the treatment of water containing this waste, according to Rudy.
He said he met with employees and the Department of Labor Standards in December and, after the consultation and inspection, found ‘basically there wasn’t much that the city wasn’t doing.’
The walk through of the plant by inspectors followed ‘potential routes of exposure to chemicals in the wastewater based on employee tasks’ and assessed ‘personal protective equipment provided to employees to protect against potential chemical exposures,’ according to the report…
From 2013 to last November, the Duck Island facility accepted runoff from the Turnkey Landfill in Rochester, N.H. Last year, this waste stream drew the attention of environmental organizations, which described ‘very high levels’ of PFAS in the run-off…”