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PFAS in White Pond fish? Odds are likely but testing is needed

Updated: Apr 22

Testing in multiple Massachusetts ponds has found high levels of PFAS in fish, and there are now signs at Walden Pond cautioning against some consumption. White Pond is probably in the same situation - here are the details.

PFAS are a group of chemicals commonly found in household products. According to the FDA, Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances "can enter the food supply through plants and animals grown, raised, or processed in contaminated areas." In an email exchange with the State of Massachusetts's Department of Public Health (DPH), we learned that pond fish are quick to absorb PFAS. This means that if PFAS is in the water, it's probably going to be in the fish too after a while, and, no amount of cleaning or cooking will remove it.


The Silent Spring Institute has a dedicated study on "this class of chemicals because some types of PFAS have been linked to cancers, including breast cancer, immunotoxicity in children, thyroid disease, reproductive problems, and other health effects."


In March 2023, the Massachusetts DPH tested and found PFAS in fish across 13 state ponds including Walden Pond. This resulted in recommendations ranging from "do not eat any fish" to eat only moderate amounts. The recommendation for Walden was to not eat bass caught there more than 2 times/month for the general public, and children shouldn't eat any bass. No testing has been done at White Pond, according to the DPH's 2023 advisory.


The Town of Concord released its own testing of water sources and showed that the Deaconess/White Pond well has PFAS levels of 2.5 parts per trillion, compared to the US Environmental Protection Agency's 4 parts per trillion maximum. Three town sources, Nagog Pond, the Division Well and the Hugh Cargill Wellfield, were higher than the EPA standard but below the State of Massachusetts standard of 20 parts per trillion.


What does this mean for fish caught at White Pond? Non-stocked fish are more likely to have PFAS than stocked fish. In White Pond's case that means trout (stocked) are probably okay but bass (not stocked, just living there) are not. To be safe, it's a good idea to not eat bass from White Pond more than twice a month for the general public and children should probably not eat any bass caught there. White Pond has a generally similar profile as Walden except that more development has meant more toxic algae blooms in the past as well as more pond closures.


The next step is to conduct a test of fish caught at White Pond. The DPH says that catches from the pond would need to be placed in tinfoil, placed in a Ziplock freezer bag and frozen. The DPH will then figure out a time to collect the fish for analysis.


Are you fishing in White Pond this Spring? Let us know at friendsofwhitepond@gmail.com if you'd like to help get testing done.

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