Water Quality InformationWritten By Actual Experts

RSS

8 Communities Living With PFAS Contamination Through No Fault Of Their Own

Analies Dyjak @ Friday, December 11, 2020 at 3:39 pm -0500

Analies Dyjak, M.A. | Head of Policy and Perspectives

“Forever Chemicals” or PFAS are a category of contaminants that are found in drinking water supplies across the country. PFAS are associated with the production of both chemical and consumer products - most notably, it’s use in firefighting foam or AFFF. Military installments engage in on-base training activities that require the use of PFAS-containing firefighting foam. The Department of Defense (DoD) has granted approval for 8 facilities across the country to burn PFAS chemicals. Many of these communities did not have problems with PFAS contamination prior to contracts with DoD.

What Are The Health and Environmental Impacts Associated With Exposure to PFAS?

PFAS are known to cause cancer, increase the risk of miscarriage, increase cholesterol, and cause various other health impacts. Drinking water accounts for up to 75% of PFAS exposure, but can be problematic through inhalation. PFAS typically enter drinking water directly from facilities that manufacture PFAS-containing products. New research has found that PFAS do not fully break down when incinerated, and may indirectly enter drinking water that way as well. There are also growing concerns about PFAS accumulation in fish, which could cause an additional route of exposure for humans. There are currently no EPA approved testing methods for PFAS in ambient air

8 Facilities Approved To Burn PFAS In The United States

There are 8 incinerators approved by the Department of Defense to burn PFAS chemicals. Not all of the locations are actively burning PFAS, or have burned PFAS in the past: 

Why Are We Burning PFAS In The First Place?

There is no scientific consensus on how to entirely remove PFAS from the environment. The Department of Defense even acknowledged that “no satisfactory disposal method has been identified” and that “many likely byproducts will be environmentally unsatisfactory.” This is in part due to the fact that PFAS were created not to break down in the environment. The carbon-fluorine bond is the strongest carbon bond there is

Incineration Facility in Cohoes, New York

The approved incineration site in Cohoes, New York, resulted in significant environmental damages. The Norlite incineration facility burned PFAS chemicals for over a year without the residents’ approval. The Norlite facility was granted a contract from the Department of Defense to burn PFAS chemicals from military bases across the country. A team of researchers from Bennington College detected PFAS downwind of the plant - indicating that the PFAS were not fully incinerated. The town of Cohoes and bordering municipalities did not have a PFAS problem until these chemicals were brought from out of state. On November 23, 2020, the Governor of New York signed legislation that bans the incineration of PFAS chemicals in certain cities, including Cohoes. 

What Does This Mean For You and Your Family?

If you live near a PFAS incineration facility, it’s important to remain informed. Because PFAS are unregulated by the federal government, most actionable changes are being made by advocacy groups, and state and local governments. You can always use our Water Nerds as a resource for any questions you might have regarding PFAS contamination in your area. If you are looking to purchase a water filter, you’ll want to make sure that it’s able to remove PFAS. Hydroviv filters were part of a Duke University and NC State PFAS removal study that determined the effectiveness of residential water filters and their ability to remove PFAS. Hydroviv filters were effective at removing PFAS at the 1 and 6 month mark, while other major filtration brands were not. 

Other Articles We Think You Might Enjoy:
Do TDS/ppm Meters Provide Meaningful Information About My Water Quality?
How To Tell If Your Home Has Lead Pipes or Plumbing
5 Things You Need To Know About Chromium 6 In Drinking Water

Wildfires and Water Quality

Analies Dyjak @ Friday, March 30, 2018 at 2:12 pm -0400

Analies Dyjak, M.A.  |  Head of Policy

*Updated 9/17/20 to include current data

California, parts of the Pacific Northwest and the Southwestern United States are experiencing some of the worst wildfires in history. We’ve seen a significant increase in both the frequency and magnitude of these destructive natural disasters since 1990. These areas are naturally susceptible to drought-like conditions, but the magnitude of wildfires becomes further heightened due to global warming trends and poor timber harvesting protocols. The overall threat of wildfires is also increasing due to urban sprawl and higher densities of people moving to drought-prone locations. Wildfires can negatively impact water quality and here’s why:

How do Wildfires Affect Water Quality?

After a wildfire event, watersheds become vulnerable to erosion, sedimentation, runoff, and other freshwater impairments. 80% of freshwater resources originate or pass through some type of forested land. Forested watersheds naturally filter rainwater, slow the rate of storm water runoff, and contribute immensely to the health of surrounding tributaries. Once forested vegetation is destroyed, the rate and volume of runoff increases tremendously, which is influenced by topography of an area. Additionally, purifying capabilities become eliminated once forested vegetation is destroyed.

What Type of Water Quality Pollution and How Is It Treated?

Destruction from massive forest fires results in displaced debris, ash, and contamination. Loose detritus of any sorts gets picked up and swept into waterbodies after a subsequent rain event. Water treatment facilities try their best to provide clean drinking water to municipalities, but an influx of suspended solids can make this a very difficult task. Extreme weather events can increase the rate of incoming water, containing high levels of suspended solids. Large deposits of sediment into a water treatment facility increases the levels of suspended material, specifically dissolved organic carbon (DOC), into your drinking water. It can also increase the turbidity or cloudiness of drinking water. Dissolved organic carbon molecules react with chlorine and chloramine, which are used to purify drinking water. This reaction creates disinfection byproducts which we are very familiar with here at Hydroviv. 

Introduction of Chemicals Into Waterbodies

Fire retardant chemicals are necessary to contain wildfire destruction, but there are several negative consequences associated with their impact on freshwater resources. The typical "slurry" used to combat wildfires is a mixture of water, ammonium phosphate fertilizers, colorants, corrosion inhibitors, thickeners, stabilizers, and bactericides. Little is known about health effects to humans, but many of these contaminants are toxic to aquatic species. Per and Polyfluoralkyl Substances (PFAS) are a main ingredient in Aqueous Fire Fighting Foam or AFFF. AFFF is typically used to extinguish fires derived from flammable liquids, and less so wildfires, but it's important to mention PFAS when talking about fire suppression. That being said, little is known about health effects associated with a typical fire suppressant slurry. 

What To Do:

Listen to public disclosures and follow recommendations from state and local governments. 

Other Articles We Think You Might Enjoy:
How Does Stormwater Runoff Affect Drinking Water?
Surface Water Pollution: What You Need To Know
Does California Have a Lead Problem?