PFAS in Local Drinking Water

Laboratory tests confirm that drinking water in cities across Massachusetts is contaminated with toxic chemicals known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) at levels exceeding what independent specialists consider safe for human consumption. As of 12/1/2019, 46% of homes we tested were positive for PFAS.

SafeWell is a unique and independent advocate for private well owners and public water users. We have researched and reviewed the health impacts, science and best practices of water sample collection, identified treatment solutions, and are working side-by-side with local authorities on continuous monitoring options and the mapping of PFAS contamination in groundwater.

Our goal is to inform homeowners of the impacts of PFAS in drinking water and empower them with options for removing. We have taken an active role in collecting testing data for towns with the presence of PFAS in water and have created geographic maps of where PFAS has been confirmed. We’ll continue to update the maps as more data becomes available and will provide updates to community members.

PFAS in the News

Read about a couple of places where PFAS has shown up in local drinking supplies.

TotalCare Public and Private Water Quality Maintenance

Health Risks
Undertanding the impact of PFAS on our health

Science
Reviewing the latest research and working with government agencies

Testing
Following industry best practices for PFAS sampling and testing

Treatment
Custom solutions for managing PFAS in drinking water

Monitoring
Continous monitoring for changes in source water and treated water

Mapping
Collecting data and mapping confirmed groundwater contamination sites

What is PFAS?
Per- and PolyFluoroAlkyl Substances (PFAS) are a group of man-made chemicals that have been manufactured since the 1940s. They have been used extensively in common household products such as nonstick pans, food packaging (pizza boxes, microwave popcorn bags, etc.), clothing and upholstery protectors (GoreTex, Scotchgard, etc.), and some personal care products and cosmetics. PFAS were also an important ingredient in fire-fighting foam.

Most U.S. manufacturers have phased out the use of PFOA and PFOS, however, these chemicals are still produced internationally and can be imported into the U.S. in consumer goods such as carpet, leather and apparel, textiles, paper and packaging, coatings, rubber and plastics.

PFAS do not break down in water or soil and may be carried over great distances by wind, rain or groundwater. Much of the contamination that is being discovered today may have originated years ago before suspicion of the damaging environmental and health effects was raised.

Exposure to PFAS can lead to adverse human health effects.

How are we exposed to PFAS?
The main sources of exposure to PFAS, particularly PFOA and PFOS, are food and drinking water that is contaminated with these chemicals.

PFAS may have entered groundwater from:

  • Industrial facilities where PFAS were produced or used to manufacture other products
  • Locations where firefighting foam was used for training, or car accidents
  • Leachate from landfills (including informal dumping sites)
  • Agricultural, commercial and residential application of PFAS-contaminated fertilizers (manufactured from municipal waste and sludge)

If you are concerned about the possibility of PFAS in your drinking water, contact us and we can provide you further information on testing.

What are the health risks?

Because PFAS don’t break down over time, they can build up in the environment and in our bodies.

Pregnant women, unborn fetus, and infants are the most susceptible to adverse health effects from PFAS. The two most common and studied forms of PFAS – PFOA and PFOS – have been associated with the following health effects:

  • Difficulty becoming pregnant
  • Low birth weight
  • Pregnancy-induced hypertension/pre-eclampsia
  • Preterm birth
  • Delayed puberty
  • Attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Immune response suppression
  • Altered liver
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Osteoarthrisis
How do I know if PFAS is in my water?
The only way to know if PFAS is present in your water is to test. If you’re not sure about testing your water for PFAS, think about the area you live to assess risk factors. As of 12/1/2019, 46% of homes we tested were positive for PFAS. If you have children in the home or elderly folks using your drinking water, we would recommend testing. If you are concerned about your health and the health of your family, consider testing.

Our PFAS testing service includes:

  • EPA 537 6 Analyses test plus Field Test Blank
  • A comprehensive well system inspection
  • A complete treatment system inspection
  • Groundwater monitoring and measurements
  • Expert guidance from our water quality specialists
  • 6-Star customer service
  • A comprehensive water quality report


What is my risk level?

PFAS Health Risk Scale

PFAS Scale

HEALTHY – The Environmental Working Group (EWG), a non-profit organization dedicated to protection of health and the environment, and their team of scientists, has set a drinking water health guideline of 1 part per trillion (ppt) for each PFAS. This is the level for which no known health risks exist. To learn more about EWG and their health guidelines and scientific references, visit www.ewg.org.

SAFE with RISKS, HIGHER RISK – MassDEP has proposed a limit of 20 ppt applicable to the SUM of the concentrations of six PFAS analytes: PFBS, PFHpA, PFHxS, PFNA, PFOS & PFOA. This proposed limit is a Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) allowed in Public Water Systems (PWS) before action is necessary.

In determining the MCL, MassDEP takes two factors into consideration: health impacts and the cost of treatment solutions for public water systems throughout Massachusetts. The reason there is health risk allowed is because the cost to treat PFAS contaminants in huge public water quantities can be extremely expensive. Treating PFAS in private wells is dramatically different than public water systems.

Neither EPA or MassDEP has established a Maximum Contaminant Level Goal (MCLG) – the level at which NO known health risks exist – for any individual or combination of PFAS.

To learn more about how MassDEP sets their PFAS standard, please visit www.mass.gov.

What are the treatment options?

Whole House Treatment Solutions

Carbon Block System & Sediment Pre-Filter

Primarily for public water systems, Carbon-based filtration carbon block system traps organic chemicals (VOCs and SOCs), municipal water treatment disinfection byproducts, PFAS and pesticides through filters made of organic materials such as coal or coconut fibers. Cartridge based system for ease of maintenance. Pre-system sediment filters are needed to extend the life of the carbon cartridge.

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Carbon Block System Sediment Filter

Backwashing Carbon Filtration System

Granular activated carbon/GAC Carbon-based filtration system traps organic chemicals (VOCs and SOCs), municipal water treatment disinfection byproducts, PFAS, and pesticides through filters made of organic materials such as coal or coconut fibers. System has smart backwashing valve to extend the life of the carbon media.

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Backwashing Carbon Filtration System

Non-Backwashing Carbon Filtration System

Granular activated carbon/GAC Carbon-based filtration system traps organic chemicals (VOCs and SOCs), municipal water treatment disinfection byproducts, PFAS and pesticides through filters made of organic materials such as coal or coconut fibers. System does not backwash to properly trap harmful contaminants in the media. Used for water systems using septic systems for waste. When media is used up, tank requires proper disposal because of trapped contaminants.

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Non-Backwashing Carbon Filtration System

Point-of-Use Treatment Solutions

4-Stage Reverse Osmosis Filtration System (Point-of-Use)

Multi-stage reverse osmosis filtration systems remove any molecule larger than H2O, including municipal water treatment byproducts, PFAS and other harmful contaminants.

Foul tastes and odors are also eliminated. RO systems are compact, easy to maintain, and are typically installed at the kitchen sink.

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4-Stage Reverse Osmosis Filtration System

Carbon Block under Sink Filtration System (Point-of-Use)

Single-stage carbon Block filtration system to remove any molecule larger than 0.2 microns, including municipal water treatment byproducts, PFAS and other harmful contaminants. System has water volume meter with audible alerts to remind when filter needs changing. System is compact, easy to maintain, and are typically installed at the kitchen sink.

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Carbon Block under Sink Filtration System

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