Westfield representatives pledge support for PFAS blood testing
Community group celebrates first year with pledges to get health questions answered
For Immediate Release (February 22, 2018)
[Westfield, Mass.] — Today, Westfield Residents Advocating For Themselves (WRAFT) celebrates its first birthday with cupcakes, balloons and pledges from elected officials to advocate for testing to determine the levels perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in their blood.
In Westfield, PFAS-contaminated drinking water left residents wondering how much of the dangerous chemicals they have in their bodies. WRAFT is calling on the mayor, city council, and elected representatives to advocate for free, voluntary blood serum testing and long-term health monitoring to better understand the impact that the contamination has had on their health.
State Representative John Velis and City Councilors Dan Allie, Mary Ann Babinski, Matt Emmershy, and Andrew Surprise signed the pledge, committing to advocating for testing and long-term health studies for Westfield residents. Mayor Brian Sullivan and City Councilor Nick Morganelli also attended the celebration.
“For years we were drinking PFAS contaminated water without knowing it. Now we know how much PFAS is in the water,” said Kristen Mello, the co-founder of WRAFT. “But we don’t know how much is in our bodies or how much it has affected our health. And if knowledge is power, then blood testing and health monitoring will give us back our power.”
PFAS is linked to reproductive cancers, kidney disorders, ulcerative colitis and more. Westfield is not alone — recent studies estimate that PFAS is in the drinking water of 6 million Americans.
Since the group was founded last year in response to the contamination, WRAFT has hosted a public forum to educate Westfield residents about the PFAS contamination, collected over 700 signatures in support of blood testing, and joined the National PFAS Contamination Coalition to work with groups across the country fighting for clean water.
Results would equip families to take preventative action and address health concerns before they emerge.
“Although we can’t know exactly how long we have been exposed to PFAS in the city water, we can know exactly how much of PFAS we still carry in our bodies,” said Mello. “Westfield residents have a right to that information to better protect their families.”
Last week, Westfield announced a lawsuit against the makers of the chemicals that polluted the city’s waters. WRAFT thanked Mayor Sullivan for taking action and hopes that officials will continue to show leadership by advocating for blood testing as well.
“Making polluters pay is definitely a step in the right direction. But also, we are all paying for this pollution in our health,” said Mello. “We won’t know the price until we have blood testing and long-term health monitoring.”
Federal programs already exist that provide testing at no cost to residents through the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR).
“Westfield residents have worked hard to answer questions about what PFAS contamination has meant for their water and their community,” said Mary Jones, Community Organizer with Community Action Works. “Now, they deserve answers on what the contamination has meant for their health.”
The celebration was held at the Skyline Trading Company in Westfield, where WRAFT members gathered to celebrate a year of working together to educate neighbors on the contamination and move forward solutions.
“I was encouraged by the outpouring of support and the appearance of several past and present council members, our state representative and Mayor Sullivan,” said Barbara Rokosz, WRAFT member. “It was so good to reiterate the importance of blood testing in Westfield.”
Westfield Residents Advocating For Themselves (WRAFT) works to provide community education and advocacy for the residents of Westfield, MA impacted by the pollution of their natural resources.
Community Action Works works side-by-side with communities to prevent or clean up pollution in New England. Learn more at www.communityactionworks.org.
Kristen Mello, Westfield Residents Advocating For Themselves (WRAFT)
Mary Jones, Community Action Works