Basic information about about PFOA, PFOS and other PFAS/PFCs; how people are exposed; health effects; laws and regs that apply; and what EPA and states are doing to reduce exposures.
Drinking Water Facts: Perfluorinated Chemicals (PFCs) in Drinking Water:
What levels of PFCs found in drinking water are safe to drink?
USEPA has issued a lifetime drinking water Health Advisory for PFOA and PFOS of 70 parts per trillion (ppt)or (ng/L) either individually or when concentrations of PFOA and PFOS are combined. A Health Advisory identifies the concentration of a contaminant in drinking water at which adverse health effects are not anticipated to occur.
The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) developed a guideline for chronic (lifetime) exposures to PFOA of 40 ppt (ng/L). NJDEP has also established an interim specific ground water criterion for PFNA of 10 ppt (ng/L).
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Contact Information:
What are perfluoroalkyls?
Perfluoroalkyls are stable, synthetic chemicals. Perfluoroalkyls are unique because they repel oil, grease, and water. The two perfluoroalkyls made in the largest amounts in the U.S. are perflurooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS).
How can PFCs be removed from water?
Filters containing activated carbon or reverse osmosis units have been shown to be effective at removing PFCs from water supplies where they have been used and tested.
MDH has conducted a study of point of use water treatment devices – for more information see the information sheet entitled, "MDH Evaluation of Point-of-Use Water Treatment Devices for Perfluorochemical Removal Final Report - Summary" (PDF: 205KB/6 pages).
Other types of common water treatment systems, such as water softeners, are not likely to remove PFCs. Boiling the water will not remove the PFCs.
If you are interested in installing a water treatment system of any sort, be sure to work with a reputable supplier and check references.
Source: Minnesota Department of Health
See also: Recommendation on Perfluorinated Compound Treatment Options for Drinking Water
Important update from Tracy Carluccio at Delaware Riverkeeper Network: Some of you got an email in August from me about the NJDEP proposed safe drinking water standard, also called a Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) being proposed for PFNA. The comment period is open on this through 5pm on October 6. This is a reminder of the due date, or if you are just hearing about this, a request that you consider submitting a comment to NJDEP in support of the adoption by the state of a mandatory safe drinking water standard or MCL for PFNA.
As you may know, the NJ Drinking Water Quality Institute finished their studies and recommended a MCL of 13ppt 2 years ago. NJ is finalizing this by proposing to make a rule that sets a MCL for PFNA for all of New Jersey. This standard is more strict than what is being used as guidance now. So this will require all drinking water systems in NJ to be regularly tested for PFNA and water that is found to be contaminated with PFNA at 13ppt or greater has to be treated so it’s removed to below that level.
My organization, Delaware Riverkeeper Network, engaged an independent toxicologist when the Institute did their study and we are recommending an even stricter standard of between 3 and 5 ppt. Activated carbon treatment, which some your municipalities now have, removes PFNA to non-detect if it is operated properly. Some municipalities are “blending” water (diluting contaminated water by adding water with no or less PFNA) to keep the concentration of PFNA down. But currently there is no mandatory requirement to do this – the adoption of a MCL will make removal of PFNA to below the adopted MCL standard a requirement for all water suppliers. Water suppliers will have to report to consumers what the sampling of the water shows.
There is also a MCL being proposed for 1,2,3-TCP, which has been found in Burlington County – now all water systems in NJ will have to be tested for that chemical too and have it removed.
Information on these MCLs and other aspects of the proposed changes to the state’s Safe Drinking Water Standards can be found at DRN’s action alert where there is a link to all relevant information and some talking points for people to use to make comment. Here is the link: http://www.delawareriverkeeper.org/node/4977
For convenience, here is the link to the NJDEP rulemaking: http://www.nj.gov/dep/rules/notices/20170807b.html
The comment period for this rule is open to October 6, 5:00 pm. If you can make a comment supporting that DEP adopt a MCL, that will be most helpful. How to do that is explained in our action alert. The more support shown for the adoption of a MCL, the better, so please share this information with others. It is very powerful for the regulators to hear comments from people who have been exposed to contaminated drinking water – you are the impacted community members and have special influence because of what you have been – and in some cases – are still going through. So, your comment really matters. The Talking Points we provide on our action alert will help you write a letter but expressing your own thoughts and saying you have been exposed and want this toxic chemical regulated and removed from your water is the most important thing.
Delaware Riverkeeper Network
925 Canal St., Suite 3701
Bristol PA 19007
Phone: 215.369.1188 ext 104
Township of West Deptford Water Supply System & Perfluorinated Compounds (PFCs)
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What is the current issue with West Deptford’s drinking water?
In August 2013 the Delaware River Keepers Network alerted local municipalities and the public of the presence of perfluorinated compounds (PFC’s) around the Solvay Solexis, Incorporated facility in West Deptford Township. One type of PFC, which is a part of a broader class of chemicals, is known as a Perfluorononanoic Acid (PFNA).
In the neighboring Borough of Paulsboro, PFNA’s were found in the drinking water supply from Well No. 7 in the range of 100 “parts per trillion” (ppt) to 150 ppt.
As a result of this finding, the NJDEP requested that Solvay conduct testing of seven (7) municipalities’ supply wells.
Five (5) of West Deptford’s supply wells resulted in no readings for PFC’s. Only one (1), Well No. 3, has currently produced readings of 48 ppt & 38 ppt for PFNA in the raw water sample, which have been quality assurance data reviewed by NJDEP. Additional samples will be collected and the results will be delivered to the NJDEP for quality assurance data review.
Q: What are the differences between Paulsboro and West Deptford water supply issues?
The largest difference is the level of PFNA found in the two systems. In West Deptford Township, PFNA was found at 48 ppt and 38 ppt in Well No. 3 and in Paulsboro, PFNA was found in excess of 100 ppt and up to 150 ppt in Well No. 7.
West Deptford Township has shut down Well No. 3. Paulsboro, on the other hand, continues to operate Well No. 7 because Paulsboro’s other well, Well No. 8, is off line while treatment for radium is upgraded. 3/12/14
Q: How is the Township of West Deptford addressing the issue of PFCs and Well No. 3?
The Township has shut down Well No. 3 until further notice since it has other wells it can operate to supply water to the Township. It also purchases water from NJ American Water Company.
The Township is working with the NJDEP and Solvay to determine what the long-term solution will be. Additional testing of Well No. 3 and other wells in the nearby area are to be performed and results analyzed.
Q: What are PFC’s?
PFC’s are a large group of manmade manufactured compounds that are widely used to make everyday products more resistant to stains, grease and water. For example, PFC’s may be used to keep food from sticking to cookware, carpets resistant to stains, and to make clothes waterproof.
PFC’s break down very slowly in the environment.
Q: How are people exposed to PFC’s?
PFCs are used in manufacturing processes, so they are not present at high concentrations in most consumer products. However, when they are not properly disposed of, PFCs can reach sources of drinking water, be present in dust, and even accumulate in fish and other animals that we consume. Some PFC uses such as insecticides, carpet treatments and firefighting foams can lead to additional exposures.
Q: Are PFC’s in drinking water a health concern?
The EPA is determining how prevalent certain PFCs are in drinking water supplies and at what level they appear. The EPA has nominated the PFC class to the National Toxicology Program for additional study due to the insufficient information to properly assess human health risk.
Q: How are PFCs regulated?
PFCs in drinking water are not currently regulated in the United States. The EPA maintains an active program called the Contaminant Candidate List, CCL3, finalized on September 22, 2009, includes two (2) perfluorinated compounds: perfluorooctanesulfonic acid ((PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA).
In addition, six (6) perfluorinated compounds are currently being monitored under EPA’s Third Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule. The six (6) PFCs that are being monitored under UCMR3 include: perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS), perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), perfluorononanoic acid (PFNA), perfluorohexanesulfonic acid (PFHxS), perfluoroheptanoic acid (PFHpA) and perfluorobutanesulfonic acid (PFBS).
The USEPA and NJDEP guidelines are as follows:
(Units = ppt)
PFOA PFOS PFNA
USEPA 400 200 None
NJDEP 40 20 None
The Township of West Deptford has requested that NJDEP adopt maximum containment levels (MCLs) for PFCs, specifically for PFNA.
Q: What are West Deptford’s Next Steps?
The Township will continue working with the NJDEP and Solvay to address the issue. Additional testing will be performed and based upon the results of the findings; the Township will analyze alternatives regarding treatment for removal of PFCs from the water supply system.
Source: West Deptford Township Website (Official FAQ no longer posted on West Deptford Township website)
Notice to West Deptford Township Residents, from the Mayor and Township Committee
The West Deptford Township water system still remains in accordance with NJDEP regulations and US Federal requirements. West Deptford Township continues to provide regulated, safe drinking water to its residents. As previously stated, Solvay collected raw water samples from all six (6) of our township supply wells at the end of October, 2013. Those results have since been “quality assurance data reviewed” by NJDEP revealed readings of 48 “parts per trillion” (ppt) and 38ppt for PFNA in the raw water sample of Well No. 3. PFC’s were not detected in the remaining five (5) wells. Additional testing has been conducted by both Solvay and West Deptford Township and we are awaiting the NJDEP to “quality assurance data review” those readings before they are available to be released.
As a precautionary measure, Well No. 3 has remained offline since January 23rd, 2014. As previously stated, PFC’s are currently unregulated in drinking water. The West Deptford Township Committee has requested that the NJDEP set safe levels for PFC’s and the NJDEP has reported to us that they are in the “process of developing an Interim Groundwater Quality Criterion for PFNA that should be released shortly.”
At the guidance of the NJDEP, Solvay is continuing to gather information regarding the amount of private wells or irrigation wells which are in existence within a 5 mile radius around their plant. The NJDEP has stated to West Deptford Township that it is “requiring that Solvay locate and sample nearby potable and irrigation wells as part of their sampling plan.” The Township will continue to assist Solvay in locating all private wells in the vicinity of their West Deptford plant.
As previously stated, West Deptford Township will continue to ensure its water system is in accordance with NJDEP regulations and US Federal requirements. The water provided to our residents comes from a blended water source. Blended water is water that comes from combined sources, such as other wells, and the New Jersey American Water Interconnection. Information will be communicated as it becomes available. In addition we have provided a “Frequently Asked Questions” link to our West Deptford Township website.
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