Middlesex County

Discovery of water contaminants forces Cambridge to temporarily change its water supply

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — It’s a change that will impact every citizen in Cambridge.

The city’s water department is temporarily switching its water supply from the Stony Brook Watershed, to the MWRA’s Quabbin and Wachusett Reservoirs.

The reason: PFAS levels, which stands for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, are above what the state allows. PFAS are essentially contaminants in the water, and are sometimes called “forever chemicals” because they don’t degrade in the environment.

The department says to get those PFAS numbers down, it needs to install a new water filter at its water treatment facility, but because of supply chain issues that can’t be done until November.

So, starting Tuesday, Cambridge will have a new temporary water supply.

The change will cost 2 million dollars a month.

“We are going to change the water supply temporarily such that no one has to do anything. The water is totally safe to drink,” said Water Department Managing Director Same Corda

“This is the right decision to protect the health and safety of our citizens,” Cambridge City Councilor Quinton Zondervan said.

He agrees this is a good short term solution, but he says it should have been done in 2019 when PFAS levels were first detected.

He thinks the long range solution is for Cambridge to permanently get its water from the MWRA.

“In my opinion, that’s the only long term solution, is to stay on MWRA, because we know that’s a clean source,” Zondervan added.

In the meantime, city water officials are saying once the filters are replaced, Cambridge’s water supply will be fine.

“The water is safe to drink. We are preemptively gong on MWRA  water so that you don’t have to do any changes. We are making the changes to protect the health and safety of you and your family,” Same Corda said.

The city expects it will be able to return to using its own water supply in November.

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