PFAS in Drinking Water

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 What You Need to Know About PFAS

Laboratory tests confirm that drinking water in cities across Massachusetts are contaminated with toxic chemicals known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) at levels exceeding what independent experts consider safe for human consumption.

The information below will "inform to empower" so you can make the best decision for you and your family when it comes to assessing potential health risks.

As a unique advocate for private well owners and public water users, our team has researched and reviewed the health impacts, science, best practices of  water sample collection, identified treatment solutions, and is working side-by-side with local authorities on continuous monitoring options and the mapping of PFAS contamination in ground water. Our goal is to inform to empower people in areas of concern of the impacts of PFAS in drinking water and the options for removing it. We have also taken the initiative to collect and map data for towns that have identified issues with PFAS.

 

 

PFAS Basics

Per- and PolyFluoroAlkyl Substances (PFAS) are a group of man-made chemicals that have been manufactured since the 1940s and 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.

Source: https://www.evoqua.com/

Even though most U.S. manufacturers have phased out the use of PFOA and PFOS, they're still produced internationally and can be imported into the US in consumer goods such as carpet, leather and apparel, textiles, paper and packaging, coatings, rubber and plastics.

Since 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

Because PFAS were so widely used and don’t break down over time, they can build up in the environment and in our bodies. The main sources of exposure to PFAS, particularly PFOA and PFOS, are from eating food and drinking water that is contaminated with these chemicals.

PFAS may have entered groundwater used for drinking water 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

Health Impact of PFAS in Water

Because PFOA and PFOS were the most extensively produced of the PFAS chemicals, they have been the most studied.

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:

 

Source: Michigan Department of Environmental Quality

Health Risks Associated With PFAS for Non-Pregnant Adults

 

PFAS Health Risk Scale

Studies have linked very low levels of PFAS exposure in drinking water to health effects; including kidney and liver disease; immune, reproductive and developmental problems; high cholesterol; and certain cancers.

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, click the link: https://www.ewg.org/tapwater/reviewed-pfcs.php

SAFE with RISKSHIGHER 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 click the link: https://www.mass.gov/lists/development-of-a-pfas-drinking-water-standard-mcl

Solutions to Remove PFAS from Water

Point-of-Entry Granular Activated Carbon

 

The current industry standard for PFAS treatment. This is a whole house treatment system that treats all water entering your home from the well. This non-backwashing system removes PFAS by adsorbing the PFAS to the carbon. Understanding other VOC contaminants and Radon in Water levels in your well water is important to sizing the appropriate system. Critical to the systems function are both a maintenance and monitoring program. Configurations range from $1500 - $3000 fully installed.

Point-of-Use Reverse Osmosis

This type of treatment system is installed at one "point of use," typically the kitchen faucet (and can typically be plumbed to the refrigerator dispenser).
This can be a standard RO system, but must be maintained at least annually. Important from an environmental perspective to dispose of cartridges properly. Configurations range from $900 - $1500 fully installed.

Recommendations

The only way to know if PFAS is present in your water is to test. If you're still 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.

Why We Care About the PFAS Issue

As a drinking water protection company whose mission is focused on reducing health risks and ensuring the highest quality life for families, we've made a special effort to focus our attention on the latest contaminant of concern in Massachusetts: PFAS. Our research department has been hard at work reviewing the scientific literature on the health impacts, and our treatment team has been looking for innovative solutions to remove it from water in homes.

Our goal with this initiative is to inform to empower homeowners of the impacts of PFAS in drinking water and the options for removing it to protect their health. We have also taken an active role in collecting testing data for towns with the presence of PFAS in water and created geographic maps where PFAS has been confirmed. As more data becomes available, we'll be updating our maps and providing updates to community members.

Questions?

Feel free to contact us if you have any questions regarding PFAS, water quality testing, or need treatment advice. Our team is staying updated with the latest research on PFAS and we attend many of the conferences available for PFAS education. In addition, we're working with local authorities and non-profit groups on testing, treatment, and monitoring solutions. Our goal is simply to inform to empower homeowners so they can make the best decision with the information currently available.  We're all in this together, and our team takes great pride in making sure we keep harmful contaminants out of our most precious resource--our water!