Moulton Delivers $959,752 for Manchester Water Treatment, PFAS


Manchester will receive $959,752 in federal funds to support planning and design for future PFAS purification of the town’s municipal water.  

The funds came as part of a larger, $13.2 million package benefiting 15 Essex County communities, including Rockport and Gloucester and on Monday, US Congressman Seth Moulton visited Manchester’s Gravelly Pond Water Treatment Plant as part of a tour of all North Shore sites that will receive funding.  Other sites on Cape Ann included Pathways for Children in Gloucester and Rockport’s Department of Public Works.

While this is welcome news for residents, the challenge of PFAS is extensive and expensive.  Manchester has estimated it will need up to $26 million to mitigate PFAS from its drinking water at two sites that provide public drinking water, the Lincoln Street Well (LSW) and Gravelly Pond on upper Pine Street.  

Testing for PFAS—“forever” contaminants in our nation’s water systems associated with a wide variety of chemicals from goods like non-stick cookware, fleece textiles, and firefighting foams, among others—has been a state requirement for more than two years.  

Manchester’s two sites have stayed within current state (20 parts / trillion) guidelines but that will change in April when new standards announced last year by the US Environmental Protection Agency
(4 parts / trillion) become effective.  Testing at the Lincoln Street Well has registered PFAS between 7ppt and 20ppt and Gravelly Pond between 2ppt and 8ppt. 

Monthly testing is required by the state at the LSW, but Manchester’s DPW elected to do testing monthly for both sites and sampling is completed by Woodard & Curran, the town’s contracted operator, and tested at state-certified labs.  Testing at these ultra-low levels (parts / trillion) must follow strict protocols and cross contamination with other PFAS sources (such as clothing) can skew results. 

Manchester learned of the windfall appropriation just two weeks ago, just as the town was finalizing FY25 town budgets to bring to voters at its Annual Town Meeting on April 24, including the first round of PFAS mitigation funding.  

Then, late last week, Dept. of Public Works Director Chuck Dam learned that Rep. Moulton would be visiting the water treatment plant.

“I expected a man like Congressman Moulton wouldn’t be in tune with the issues we face here,” said Dam, who is a municipal water expert and a past president of the Massachusetts Water Works Association.  “But he really understood that this is a critical issue and how much impact this level of funding would have,” said Dam. “We have tried to leverage both Town and Federal funds on to stay ahead of this issue and remain in compliance with current and future MCL’s (maximum contaminant limit).” 

The Town used federal ARPA funding to complete previous PFAS remediation studies and is currently in the process of pilot and bench-scale testing of alternative filter media utilizing the town’s remaining ARPA funds.

“PFAS concentration levels in the town’s drinking water (at the Lincoln Street well) are at the maximum thresholds set by the Commonwealth and above the new thresholds for which the EPA is promulgating regulations (at both sources),” Moulton’s office said.  “Federal funding will enable the Town to test various systems and design the appropriate option. The project will ensure that residents are able to access safe drinking water.”

The $13.2 million was announced after the finalization of FY24 appropriations passed by the US House of Representatives last Wednesday, followed by the Senate on Friday. Congressman Moulton selected community projects that span infrastructure and climate resiliency needs, workforce development and veterans services, and childcare and education.

Two other Cape Ann projects were selected as part of the funding program.  The Town of Rockport received $959,752 to repair and replace a sewer pipe and pump station and make necessary upgrades to its wastewater treatment plant associated with that town’s catastrophic failure of its main pump station in February 2023.  In Gloucester, the Pathways for Children nonprofit received $1,330,000 in operating funds.  Other North Shore projects receiving funding include $959,752 for the City of Salem for sewer upgrades and $500,000 to the regional US Army Corps of Engineers for dredging.  Also, Beverly’s McPherson Youth Center will receive $1,000,000 in operating funds.  Finally, Essex North Shore Agricultural and Technical School District in Danvers will receive $850,000 to create a STEAM Academy and a veteran’s center in Lowell. 

“These projects are truly collaborative and locally driven because they have been developed by community leaders,” said Congressman Moulton.  “They will directly address key challenges we face across the 6th District.”

Dam said the current plan for Manchester’s PFAS mitigation is to design two separate carbon-based filtering systems at both water sites.  Previously, the town expected to re-loop drinking water from the Lincoln Street Well up Pleasant Street to the water treatment plant at Gravelly Pond, hoping the single treatment approach would be more cost-effective.  However, that strategy didn’t survive initial research.  Current estimates peg the LSW PFAS filtration system at $10 million.  Gravelly Pond, which treats surface water in a more intense process, is more expensive to filter and is expected to cost up to $16 million.  

Ultimately, the piloting and bench-scale testing will drive the final solution at both facilities and potential costs will follow accordingly.  

“Congressman Moulton is the highest-level politician I’ve ever been around,” said Dam.  “It is great to have a leader like that representing our area and responsive to the town’s needs.”

With the new funding coming in, the town will adjust its bond request for next month’s Town Meeting.  It’s unclear when the town will receive the funding, but it’s expected to be in place before this summer.

All town data and information regarding PFAS is available on the town website .