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“PRINCETON — Voters at a Feb. 26 special town meeting agreed to borrow up to $1 million to sample, test and monitor well water near the town center for the possible presence of harmful chemicals.

The chemicals, perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl, known as PFAS, can be dangerous to pregnant women, nursing mothers and infants, as well as harmful to fetal development. PFAS can also cause thyroid problems and cancer in certain sensitive populations.

The borrowing voters approved will also pay for furnishing bottled water and point-of-entry treatment systems to affected households as well as related consulting engineering and legal activities the town will undertake in relation to the PFAS.

A ‘yes’ vote was needed from a two-thirds majority of voters in order to pass the single warrant article. It was approved on a voice vote with only a few dissenting. Town officials estimated more than 100 voters in attendance.

James Dunbar, town treasurer, said the effect of the borrowing on the tax rate is 18 cents per thousand dollars valuation for every $100,000 borrowed, plus interest, over 10 years. According to town administrator Sherry Patch, there may be a program through the USDA that can put the borrowing out for 40 years.

PFAS chemicals have been around since the 1950s and can be found in firefighting foam as well as stain-resistant and water-resistant fabrics, nonstick products and coatings on consumer products like waxes, outdoor clothing, carpets, leather goods and hairsprays.

Described as ‘forever chemicals’ because they do not break down easily and stay in the environment for a very long time, PFAS are water-soluble and can seep into the soil and then into water supplies.

Water contaminated by PFAS is of less concern when used for bathing, showering, washing fruits and vegetables or when found in restaurants.

Water sampling conducted on the Town Hall campus well last September showed evidence of PFAS and led to the testing of private wells in the area, revealing measurable levels of the chemicals in some of them. The town does not have a municipal water system…”