PFAS in Drinking Water
Water Supplier Releases New Test Results
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As the result of a new state drinking water standard, Webster Water Department has completed testing for a family of chemical compounds known as PFAS. The results indicate the presence of PFAS in a quantity above the new standard, and Webster Water Department is taking immediate action to address the findings. This is not an emergency. If it had been, you would have been notified immediately.
Recent testing of the Bigelow Rd Well 03G drinking water source detected per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) on the finished water at levels of 15.2 ppt on April 6th, 15.6 ppt on May 3rd, 20.4 ppt on July 30th and 24.2 ppt on August 25th. Recently, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection issued a new regulation setting the drinking water standard for six PFAS at 20 nanograms per liter (ng/L), equal to 20 parts per trillion (ppt) (referred to as PFAS6). The state set its own standards because these compounds are not yet regulated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Right now, EPA recommends two specific PFAS (PFOA and PFOS) levels in drinking water not exceed 70 ppt.
As a result of the findings and in conjunction with MassDEP, Webster Water Department has taken the following actions:
- We have removed the impacted water source from service isolating it from our customers and your water remains safe and meets all standards at this time
- We will be collecting monthly samples on all of our sources and analyzing the data which will help determine our next steps including the possibility of PFAS treatment
- Please note Bigelow Rd Well has been producing approximately 10% of our daily usage with the other 90% coming from our new state of the art water filtration plant at Memorial Beach which delivers finished water below the PFAS limit
- We are working with our Engineering firm to find cost effective long and short term solutions
“We are committed to providing consumers with safe and reliable water and are working diligently to develop a plan that ensures the public water supply meets the state’s new drinking water standards,’’ said Thomas Cutler, Water & Sewer Superintendent. “We will
keep the public informed as we work with local and state officials to develop, design and implement the most expedient, effective and fiscally responsible solution to this emerging chemical of concern.”
PFAS are a family of manmade chemicals used for non-stick coatings and firefighting foams. Manufacturing of certain PFAS was discontinued in the U.S. about 30 years ago, but they may still be used in imported products. PFAS are resilient and do not degrade easily in soil and water. As a result, they are widely found in the environment and many consumer products where they migrate to the food supply and drinking water. In fact, most people already have concentrations of these chemicals in their blood as food and consumer products are additional points of exposure.
MassDEP recommends consumers in a sensitive subgroup (pregnant or nursing women, infants and people diagnosed by their health care provider to have a compromised immune system), are advised not to consume, drink, or cook with water when the level of PFAS6 is above 20 ppt.
Webster Water Department has removed the impacted source from service and we continue to deliver finished water from our Memorial Beach WTP well below the MassDEP 20 ppt limit.
MassDEP says that “consuming water with PFAS6 above the drinking water standard does not mean that adverse effects will occur. The degree of risk depends on the level of the chemicals and the duration of exposure.’’
There are scientific studies that suggest potential links between exposure to certain PFAS in the environment and health effects. The studies have looked at the effects on the development of fetuses and infants, the thyroid, the liver, kidneys, hormone levels and the immune system, as well as if a cancer risk exists for people exposed to levels well above the drinking water standard.
MassDEP and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control both note more research is needed and ongoing, and it is important to remember consuming water with high PFAS6 levels does not mean adverse effects will occur. While awaiting further scientific study, MassDEP has acted to set a drinking water standard, and statewide, public water suppliers are working in the best interest of consumers to lower PFAS6 levels where they are found to be at or above 20 ppt.
Consumers concerned about potential health effects of PFAS should consult a medical professional.
For more information, visit our website at www.webster-ma.gov or call us at 508-949-3861, Option 3
• MassDEP PFAS Information - https://www.mass.gov/info-details/per-and-polyfluoroalkyl-substances-pfas
• MassDEP Fact Sheet - Questions and Answers for Consumers - https://www.mass.gov/media/1854351
• MassDEP Fact Sheet - Home Water Treatment Devices - Point of Entry and Point of Use Drinking Water Treatment - https://www.mass.gov/service-details/home-water-treatment-devices-point-of-entry-and-point-of-use-drinking-water
• CDC ATSDR Information on PFAS for consumers and health professionals - https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/pfas/index.html
• Massachusetts Department of Public Health information about PFAS in Drinking Water - https://www.mass.gov/service-details/per-and-polyfluoroalkyl-substances-pfas-in-drinking-water
• Safe Water Massachusetts - challenges facing water systems - https://www.safewatermass.org/