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Parks & Recreation

Posted on: April 18, 2023

Addendum to the Lake Quinsigamond Advisory of 03-06-23

Date of Record: April 18, 2023 - Addendum to the March 6, 2023 Advisory for Lake Quinsigamond




Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a group of chemicals used since the 1950s to manufacture stain-resistant, water-resistant, and non-stick products. PFAS are widely used in common consumer products such as food packaging, outdoor clothing, coatings, carpets, leather goods, and other products.




The Environmental Toxicology Program in the DPH Bureau of Environmental Health routinely issues advice based on the identification of contamination in environmental samples, such as water and food.

In March 2023, DPH issued public advice on the safe use of recreational waterbodies that are located at 20 different state parks operated by the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR).

This advice is based on the identification of PFAS contamination that was measured in fish and surface water samples that were collected as part of a statewide surveillance effort during the late spring and summer months of 2022.

DPH issued specific recommendations on activities such as swimming and the consumption of fish caught from these waterbodies.

This is only the second time that recreational fish consumption advisories have been issued based on the presence of PFAS in fish collected in the Commonwealth of MA.  

The advice included recommendations for the following 13 communities and waterbodies:

  1. Ashland (Ashland Reservoir)  
  2. Chicopee (Chicopee Reservoir)  
  3. Concord (Walden Pond)  
  4. Douglas (Wallum Lake)  
  5. Gardner (Dunn Pond)  
  6. Milton (Houghtons Pond)  
  7. Natick, Framingham, and Wayland (impacted by the Lake Cochituate advisory)  
  8. Plymouth (Fearing Pond)  
  9. Saugus (Pearce Lake)  
  10. Taunton (Watsons Pond)  
  11. Westfield (Pequot Pond)  
  12. Winchendon (Dennison Lake)  
  13. Worcester / Shrewsbury (Lake Quinsigamond)*


  • Lake Park Beach                (42.2593, -71.7515)
  • Regatta Point Beach         North (42.2774, -71.7573)
  • Regatta Point Beach         South (42.2766, -71.7574)

PFAS was found in fish at every waterbody where they were sampled. Consistent with last year’s advisories, DPH is recommending that sensitive populations (such as young children or people who are pregnant, nursing, or planning to become pregnant) not eat certain fish, or refrain from unlimited (or daily) consumption at certain waterbodies. PFAS was not found at levels that would be unsafe for swimming or recreational activities in any of the waterbodies that were sampled. In addition to the freshwater locations mentioned above, surface water was also found to be safe for swimming or recreational activities at seven marine (or saltwater) beaches, including Carson, Constitution, Savin Hill, and Tenean Beaches in Boston Harbor; Revere Beach in Broad Sound; Kings Beach in Nahant Bay; and Wollaston Beach in Quincy Bay.




When chemical contaminants such as PFAS are identified in food, health agencies conduct a safety assessment to evaluate whether levels present in food present a possible human health concern.  The DPH approach considers a number of factors, including whether there is an established state or federal “action level”, how much of the specific food people eat, the level measured in the food, and the potential toxicity of the contaminant. 

Fish Consumption Advisories are typically risk-based recommendations on a level of fish consumption (e.g., servings per day, week, month, or year) informed by the measured concentration of contaminants in a sample of fish that are representative of a specific waterbody. As the concentration of chemicals in fish increases, the amount of fish that you should eat decreases.  

The underlying basis for the recommendation is a “toxicity criterion”, which represents a level of a contaminant that an individual can be exposed to every day without experiencing adverse health effects.  

Consistent with the US Food and Drug Administration, DPH preferentially uses the “minimal risk levels” (MRLs) from the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) to evaluate a safe level of exposure to PFAS. If MRLs are not available, US EPA RfDs are used, if available.




Since 2015, PFAS have been detected in groundwater, surface water, and residential drinking water wells, associated with contaminated sites in MA.  Surveillance of surface water by the MA Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) and the US Geological Survey indicates that PFAS may be present in one localized area as high as 259 parts per trillion (ppt), for sum of the 6 PFAS regulated by MassDEP. As PFAS in surface water may not always be associated with any known point-source or site-related contamination, it is important to determine if these locations are safe for recreational activities such as swimming and fishing.  

Given that PFAS are chemicals of toxicological concern with widespread occurrence in the environment, DPH initiated surveillance of surface water and fish, to evaluate whether waterbodies are safe for swimming, and whether fish are safe for eating. During the late spring and summer of 2022, DPH initiated a project to sample state-operated waterbodies that have a DPH issued permit for swimming. 




While consumer products and food are a large source of exposure for most people, drinking water can also be a source in communities where these chemicals have contaminated the water supplies. Such contamination is typically localized and associated with a specific facility, (e.g. an industrial facility where these chemicals were produced or used to manufacture other products or where firefighting foam was used).




In people, exposure to certain PFAS has been associated with increased cholesterol and liver enzymes, decreased response to vaccines in children, and increased risk of high blood pressure or pre-eclampsia during pregnancy. PFAS have also been shown to cause slightly decreased birth weights. There is also evidence that long-term exposure to elevated levels of some of these PFOA may increase the risk of both kidney and testicular cancer in humans. 

It’s important to keep in mind that the likelihood of experiencing health effects associated with PFAS depends on the amount of PFAS that a person has been exposed to, considering concentrations in environmental media, as well as frequency and duration of exposure. It’s also important to keep in mind that health effects associated with PFAS may not be traced specifically to PFAS – they can also be caused by many other factors. As a result, it is not possible to definitively link a person’s PFAS exposure to any previous, current, or future health effects. If you have specific health concerns, you should consult with your medical provider. 

Despite extensive research, there are still some gaps in scientists’ understanding of PFAS toxicity. At this time, scientists are still learning about the health effects of exposures to PFAS mixtures and about differences in how laboratory animals and humans respond to PFAS. Additional research may improve our understanding of the relationship between PFAS exposure and human health effects.



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Where can I find out more information about PFAS? 

Where can I find out more information about Recreational Fish Consumption Advisories? 

Where can I find out more information about PFAS in recreationally caught fish? 

Where can I find out more information about PFAS and Swimming?

Where can I find more information about the results from last year?


If you have additional questions about this issue in MA, please contact:
The Environmental Toxicology Program at the MA Department of Public Health



Previously Communicated on March 6, 2023:

Department of Public Health Issues New Fish Consumption Advisories Based on PFAS in Fish at 13 State Parks. 

The MA Dept. of Public Health has issued new fish consumption advisories to provide guidance for people who catch and consume  freshwater fish from 13 waterbodies at state parks operated by the Dept. of Conservation & Recreation.


Date of Record:  March 6, 2023

The MA Department of Public Health (MDPH) has issued new fish consumption advisories to provide guidance for people who catch and consume freshwater fish from 13 waterbodies at state parks operated by the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR). Recent testing of fish from these locations found levels of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) above DPH-recommended levels for regular consumption. 

During recent testing of recreational waterbodies, elevated levels of PFAS were detected in fish sampled from: 

  • Ashland Reservoir in Ashland
  • Chicopee Reservoir in Chicopee
  • Lake Cochituate in Natick
  • Dennison Lake in Winchendon
  • Dunn Pond in Gardner
  • Fearing Pond in Plymouth
  • Houghtons Pond in Milton
  • Pearce Lake in Saugus
  • Pequot Pond in Westfield
  • Lake Quinsigamond in Worcester and Shrewsbury
  • Walden Pond in Concord
  • Wallum Lake in Douglas
  • Watsons Pond in Taunton

MDPH also sampled surface water at these locations, and PFAS was not found at levels that would be unsafe for swimming or any other recreational activities at these locations. 

PFAS are a group of man-made chemicals manufactured and used in a variety of consumer products and industries worldwide. Based on studies of laboratory animals and people, exposure to certain PFAS has been associated with changes in liver and kidney function, changes in thyroid hormone and cholesterol levels, and immune system effects. In addition, PFAS exposure has been shown to cause developmental effects to fetuses during pregnancy. Some studies also suggest an increased risk of developing cancer following long-term exposures to elevated levels of some PFAS.

MDPH prioritized the testing of fish and surface water at these waterbodies because they are popular locations for swimming and fishing. They are also located in communities in or near Environmental Justice Populations, where the existing burden of disease and exposure to sources of pollution are greatest. Surface water testing at seven marine beaches, including Carson, Constitution, Savin Hill, and Tenean beaches in Boston Harbor; Revere Beach in Broad Sound; Kings Beach in Nahant Bay; and Wollaston Beach in Quincy Bay showed that these beaches are safe for swimming.

The fish consumption advisories for the 13 waterbodies include guidance on the amount of fish that can be safely consumed from each individual location. This varies depending on the levels of PFAS found in the fish, other contaminants that have been evaluated in the past, and who might consume the fish. Advisories were developed for sensitive populations (including children under 12, people who are or may become pregnant, and nursing people) and for all others in the general population. 

Because the new fish consumption advisories are different for each waterbody, recommendations range from consuming two meals per week to no fish consumption. DPH fish consumption advice applies to the consumption of all native game fish, but do not apply to stocked trout at a waterbody. Stocked fish are raised in fish hatcheries and then released. Therefore, they are unlikely to spend enough time in a lake or pond to become contaminated.

MDPH has recommended that DCR work with local health departments in Ashland, Chicopee, Concord, Douglas, Gardner, Milton, Natick, Plymouth, Saugus, Taunton, Westfield, Winchendon, and Worcester to help publicize this information for people in these communities that may visit the local state parks. 

For more information about the fish consumption advisories and PFAS from DPH, please visit: PFAS (Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances) in Recreationally Caught Fish.

Public Health Advisory - PFAS Lake Quinsigamond

Other resource:  Freshwater Fish Consumption Advisories

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