Barnstable Files Lawsuit against County For Well Contamination Reimbursement

originally posted on July 18, 2016


BARNSTABLE – The town of Barnstable is seeking $2 million in damages for well contamination in a lawsuit filed against the county in Barnstable Superior Court.

The town alleges that the use of firefighting foam at the fire training academy over many decades has polluted several wells.

Over the last few years at least three wells in Hyannis were found to contain unacceptable levels of perfluorooctane sulfate, or PFOS, and another compound known as PFOA.

The town paid to install water treatment systems and is looking to be reimbursed.

Barnstable’s assistant town attorney Charlie McLaughlin said the town engaged in settlement discussions last year.

“The county has not offered, up to the time of the filing, any compensation nor apparently had they budgeted for any compensation for the town in year’s fiscal budget,” McLaughlin said. “We felt we had no choice but to commence litigation. The door is open and I’m sure there will be plenty of discussions.”

McLaughlin said the town is also concerned that actions are continuing at the fire training academy that is added to the contamination.

“As recently as last fall, the county’s representative found a foamy substance deposited on the grounds over there, obviously of very recent origin, and that substance was found to contain the offending chemicals,” he said. “So we have no particular confidence that things are being run appropriately even now.”

McLaughlin said the town believes the use of water to extinguish test fires on the site is also continuing potential contamination.

“That volume of water, we believe, is flushing out more chemicals down into the water table and forcing them to make their way over to our well heads.”

The town is looking to stop all firefighting activity at the site until there are better controls and to find out if it can be done at all without effecting the water table.

McLaughlin said the town will be filing an injunction to stop training activities.

County Administrator Jack Yunits said the county is committed to cleaning the site.

“The real issue here isn’t the money,” Yunits said. “The issue here is how we are going to clean it and we will get it cleaned.”

Yunits said the county budget appropriated over $230,000 for cleanup efforts last fiscal year and budgeted the same amount for cleanup efforts this year.

“We’re doing everything we can to clean that site but it’s a complicated, very tedious, and expensive process but we are working on it every day,” Yunits said.

The county has 20 days to file a response to the town’s complaint.

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