PFAS in Drinking Water
On October 2, 2020, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) promulgated a new drinking water regulation and maximum contaminant level (MCL) of 20 nanograms per Liter (ng/L) for the sum of six per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (called PFAS6). An MCL is the maximum permissible level of a contaminant in water which is delivered to any user of a public water system. While there are thousands of PFAS compounts, perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) were extensively produced and are the most studied and regulated of these six chemicals
Webster Water will be testing for the presence of the PFAS6 and will make those results available to the public after they are returned by the laboratory and confirmed by follow-up testing.
What are PFAS?
PFAS are a group of numerous human-made chemicals used since the 1950s to manufacture stain-resistant, water-resistant, and non-stick products such as clothing, carpets, fabrics for furniture, paper packaging for food and other materials (e.g., nonstick cookware). When discarded, PFAS has leached from these products and into water sources. While consumer products and food are the largest source of exposure to these chemicals for most people, drinking water can be an additional source of exposure in communities where these chemicals have contaminated water supplies. Such contamination is typically localized and associated with a specific facility, for example, an airfield at which they were used for firefighting or a facility where these chemicals were produced or used.
What are the health effects of PFAS6?
Some people who drink water containing PFAS6 in excess of the MCL may experience certain adverse eff ects, including the liver, blood, immune system, thyroid, and fetal development. These PFAS6 may also elevate the risk of certain cancers.
What should I do?
For consumers in a sensitive subgroup (pregnant or nursing women, infants, and people diagnosed by their health care provider to have a compromised immune system) you are advised:
• Do not consume, drink, or cook with water when the level of PFAS6 is above 20 ng/L.
• Use bottled water for cooking of foods that absorb water (like pasta).
• Use bottled water for infant formula or use formula that does not require adding water.
Bottled water should only be used if it has been tested. A list of companies that voluntarily tested their water for PFAS and shared the results can be found on MassDEP's website at: https://www.mass.gov/doc/bottled-water-tested-for-pfas.
For all other consumers not in a sensitive subgroup - You may continue to consume the water because 20 ng/L value is applicable to a lifetime consuming the water and shorter duration exposures present less risk. If you have specific health concerns regarding your past exposure, you should see the Center for Disease Control and Prevention's link below and consult a health professional, such as your doctor.
Steps you can take to reduce your exposure
Consider taking the following steps while we monitor, assess and address PFAS6:
• For older children and adults (not in a sensitive subgroup), the 20 ng/L value is applicable to a lifetime of consuming the water. For these groups, shorter duration exposures present less risk. However, if you are concerned about your exposure while steps are being taken to assess and address PFAS6 concentrations in the water, use of bottled water (as long as it contains less PFAS6) will reduce your exposure.
• Home water treatment systems that are certified to remove PFAS by an independent testing group such as NSF, UL or the Water Quality Association may be eff ective in treating the water. These include point-of-entry systems, which will treat all the water entering a home, or point-of-use devices, which treat water where it is used, such as a faucet. For more information on selecting home treatment devices that are eff ective in treating the water for PFAS6 see the MassDEP fact sheet and web links below.
• In most situations, the water can be safely used for washing foods, brushing teeth, bathing and showering.
Please note: Boiling the water will not destroy PFAS6 and will somewhat increase its level due to evaporation of some of the water.
Can our new treatment plant remove PFAS6?
Our greensand filtration plant for the wells at Memorial Beach (Station 1 and Station 2) cannot remove PFAS6 as it is currently configured. However, it could be expanded, at a capital expense, to remove PFAS6 by adding new filter vessels containing granular activated carbon and/or ion exchange resins. Station 3 at Bigelow Road would need a new treatment facility should treatment be required.
• 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/