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Military Bases Have High Concentrations of Per and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS)

Military Bases Have High Concentrations of Per and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS)

***Updated 8/29/18 to include video***

Analies Dyjak | Policy Nerd   

Per and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) have been receiving a ton of media attention throughout this past year. PFAS are a category of toxic contaminants that have invaded public and private drinking water systems across the entire country. Military bases are extremely susceptible to this type of contamination because of necessary on-base activities. If you would like to learn more about what PFAS are, their health effects, and if they're regulated, please click here. 

Why Do Military Bases Have High Concentrations of Per and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS)?

Military bases have historically had issues with pollution, due to the nature of on-base activities. Municipal fire departments also travel to nearby military bases because they provide an open, secure area to train. So not only are military personnel being directly exposed to PFAS chemicals in water, but so are local fire departments. The Department of Defence isn’t necessarily to blame for the high rates of contamination of PFAS on military bases. The Manufacturers of PFAS-containing fire fighting foam who actively sell to the DOD are greatly at fault. Because there is no effective alternative on the market, the military has no choice but to continue purchasing and using these products. Unlike many other countries, the United States doesn’t use the precautionary principle in chemical manufacturing. This means that chemicals are introduced to the market before toxicological due diligence is completed. Most of the time it takes someone getting extremely sick for manufacturers to even begin to pay attention.

More often than not, military bases have their own underground private wells that provide drinking water to families living on base, rather than being apart of a public drinking water system. Fire fighting foam can either directly percolate into soil, or run off into surrounding surface water sources. Water from contaminated soil naturally recharges on-base drinking water wells, which families consume on a daily basis.

What Is The Department of Defense Doing About Per and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) on Military Bases?

The most recent data provided by the DOD stated that 99% people receiving non-DOD-treated water were served by systems with no violations, whereas only 89% of people receiving DOD-treated water were served by systems with no violations. It’s important to note that these data are from bases that voluntarily tested for PFAS chemicals in water, but they do however reiterate that military bases have higher concentrations of this contaminant than other areas in the country. In October of 2017, the US Government Accountability Office reported that the Department of Defense has taken action on PFAS. DOD has directly shut down wells or provided filtration to 11 military installations. This is definitely a step in the right direction, but there are over 400 military bases in the United States that are still contaminated. Approximately 3 million people in the US drink water provided by the DOD. Not only are active military personnel at risk, husbands, wives and children are being adversely impacted by PFAS chemicals in water. Again, manufacturers of these dangerous chemicals are mostly to blame for such high concentrations of PFAS contamination on military bases.

What Are Public Officials Doing About Per and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS)?

EPA set a Lifetime Health Advisory Level of 70 parts per trillion for both PFOA and PFOS. The rule of thumb for PFAS is that the sum of the category of contaminants should be no higher than 70 parts per trillion. ATSDR believes this level should be reduced to 20 parts per trillion for drinking water. Again, Lifetime Health Advisory Levels and Minimum Risk Levels are non-enforceable limits that municipalities are not required to follow. DOD has not developed their own standard for PFAS in drinking water and therefore follow the non-enforceable national level of 70 parts per trillion. DOD is not at all incentivized to create a standard or even test for PFAS, because of the outrageous mitigation expenses.

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Problems We Found In San Diego's Drinking Water

Analies Dyjak | Policy Nerd   
Updated July 17, 2019 to include current data

For Hydroviv’s assessment of San Diego drinking water, we collected water quality test data from the San Diego Public Utilities and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Our Water Nerds then cross reference the city's water quality data with toxicity studies in scientific and medical literature. The water filters that we sell at Hydroviv are optimized to filter out contaminants that are found in San Diego’s drinking water.

Where Does San Diego Source Its Drinking Water?

San Diego purchases water from the San Diego Water Authority. This water is sourced by the Colorado River Aqueduct and the State Water Project. The water is then treated at one of three treatment facilities throughout the city; Alvarado, Miramar, or Otay.

Extremely High Levels of Chromium 6 in San Diego

Chromium 6 is a highly toxic metal that is currently unregulated by the EPA. San Diego has had a major problem with this dangerous contaminant. In recent years, levels of chromium 6 in San Diego drinking water ranged from 50 to 170 parts per billion. These samples were collected between the years of 2013 and 2014, so it’s unknown if the Chromium 6 situation has improved or gotten worse. Chromium 6 pollution is associated with metal processing, tannery facilities, chromate production, stainless steel welding, and pigment production. EPA has acknowledged that Chromium 6 is a known human carcinogen through inhalation, but is still determining its cancer potential through ingestion of drinking water. Lung, nasal and sinus cancers are associated with Chromium 6 exposure. Ingestion of extremely high doses of chromium 6 compounds can cause acute respiratory disease, cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, hematological, hepatic, renal, and neurological distress which may result in death.

Perfluorinated Compounds In San Diego's Drinking Water 

Two out of five reported California drinking water systems affected by PFOA and PFOS contamination were located within the San Diego region. Camp Pendleton and the city of San Juan Capistrano both had concentrations ranging from 0.021 to 0.062 parts per billion. The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry recently recommended setting a Minimum Risk Level of 0.02 parts per trillion for drinking water for both of these substances, which would put both locations in exceedance. These data are preliminary and the effects to human health are still unknown. This category of chemicals are “emerging contaminants” which means they are thought to pose a potential threat to human health and the environment, but have yet to be regulated. Perfluorinated Compounds contribute to environmental contamination largely due to the fact that they are highly resistant to degradation processes, and thus persist for many years in water, air and can enter the food chain via bioaccumulation in certain animal species.

Disinfection Byproducts In San Diego's Drinking Water 

San Diego has a serious problem with Total Trihalomethanes (TTHMs) which is a type Disinfection Byproduct or DBP. EPA regulates two categories of DBPs: Total Trihalomethanes (TTHMs) and Haloacetic Acids-5 (HAA5). San Diego’s average concentration of Haloacetic Acids-5 was 17 parts per billion which is in compliance with the loose EPA Maximum Contaminant Level of 60 parts per billion. The average concentration for Trihalomethanes was 60 parts per billion, but concentrations were detected as high as 126 parts per billion which indefinitely exceeds EPA’s Maximum Contaminant Level of 80 parts per billion. Disinfection Byproducts are a category of emerging contaminants which means they have been detected in drinking water but the risk to human health is unknown. DBPs are formed when chlorine-based disinfectants are routinely added to the water supply to kill bacteria. Regulatory agencies have very little knowledge about the adverse health effects of DBPs, and their toxicity. EPA has stated that they have been linked to an increased risk of bladder cancer, as well as kidney, liver, and central nervous system problems. Some disinfection byproducts have almost no toxicity, but others have been associated with cancer, reproductive problems, and developmental issues in laboratory animals.

It’s important to note that only a handful of contaminants are required to be included in annual Consumer Confidence Reports, and that there are hundreds of potentially harmful unregulated contaminants that aren’t accounted for. If you’re interested in learning more about water filters that have been optimized for San Diego’s tap water quality, feel free to visit www.hydroviv.com to talk to a Water Nerd on our live chat feature or send us an email at hello@hydroviv.com.

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Breaking: ATSDR Releases Toxicological Profile for Perfluoroalkyl Substances

Breaking: ATSDR Releases Toxicological Profile for Perfluoroalkyl Substances

Analies Dyjak | Policy Nerd   

The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) just released a draft toxicological profile for Perfluoroalkyl Substances such as PFOA and PFOS. This category of emerging contaminants have flooded news headlines this past year, even though they've been persistent in the environment since the 1950’s. PFOA and PFOS are ingredients used in the production of non-stick materials like Scotchgaurd, Teflon, and firefighting foam. The risk to human health is "unknown" but exposure has been linked to various types of cancer, developmental issues, and preeclampsia in laboratory animals. 

June 20, 2018 ATSDR Toxicological Profile for Perfluoroalkyls

Municipalities across the country have been demanding that government agencies expedite toxicological reports for this dangerous class of contaminants. Wilmington, North Carolina and several Michigan municipalities are just some of the locations that have been severely impacted by perfluoroalkyl contamination. Unfortunately, GenX, the most popular PFAS was not included in this particular toxicity study. This toxicological profile included provisional Minimal Risk Levels for both PFOA and PFOS. A Minimal Risk Level (MRL) is a non-enforceable standard, similar to an EPA health advisory level. The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry recommended reducing EPA’s non-enforceable health advisory from 70 parts per trillion to 20 parts per trillion for drinking water. This means municipalities across the country may be in exceedance with this new health recommendation, so people should stay current with public notices in their area. 

Are Perfluoroalkyls Now Regulated? 

It’s important to note that this toxicity study does not mean that PFOA and PFOS contaminants are now regulated. The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry can only make recommendations and provide scientific data regarding this class of contaminants. It’s now up to regulatory agencies to comb through these data and make decisions to ensure that public health is protected. The regulatory process in this country, especially for toxic substances, can take upwards of decades. A regulation proposed by EPA or CDC could take years to draft and even longer before it’s enforceable.

Our Water Nerds are working around the clock to help make sense of this 852 page document. We’ll be reviewing the document and providing information on our Youtube, Facebook and Twitter accounts. Make sure to subscribe and follow Water Nerd TV on Facebook to stay up to date!

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GenX Discharge Into The Cape Fear River:  Breaking Down the Chemours NPDES Permit

GenX Discharge Into The Cape Fear River: Breaking Down the Chemours NPDES Permit

Analies Dyjak | Policy Analyst

In last weeks blog post, we discussed what a National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit should look like. This article discusses the major problems with the 2015 Chemours-Fayetteville NPDES permit issued by the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality.  

History Of PFAS Discharge By Dupont/Chemours

In 2015, the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality issued a renewal NPDES permit to the Chemours Dupont manufacturing plant in Fayetteville, North Carolina. Prior to the media spotlight of GenX in the Cape Fear River in the summer of 2017, Chemours (and Dupont) had been receiving permit renewals since the plant was built in the 1970’s. This particular Chemours plant had been illegally discharging PFAS compounds for years. Similar compounds were not listed or identified in the NPDES permit, which immediately raised a red flag. Our team has taken the time to analyze each section of this 2015 NPDES permit renewal.

Problems With The 2015 Chemours Renewal Permit

Units:

First off, there are no units next to the values in the table. The 2015 NPDES permit almost completely lacked uniformity among units. The reader needs to clearly identify if allowable discharge is in mg/kg/day (parts per million), ug/kg/day (parts per billion), and so on. However, Chemours Dupont used “pounds per day” which isn’t constant with the EPA's normal standards of mg/kg/day or ppm. As we discussed in the overview of NPDES permit article, when a permitting agency fails to include units/dosage, they are allowing chemical discharge at any concentration, so long as the total mass does not exceed the stated value.  In doing so, they opened up the door for the permit holder to coordinate discharge schedules with their sampling.  More on this below.

Sampling:

The second issue is sampling. Chemours mainly used a grab sampling technique to test the surrounding Cape Fear water quality. Grab sampling is a daily one-time collection of water at any given location. This means that Chemours was able to determine the location and time for collecting a sample. As you can probably infer, this would allow Chemours to collect their daily grab sample as far away from the point of discharge as possible.  Additionally, this sampling method allows Chemours to collect samples at a time when operation was halted or during a low-discharge period.  Either of these sampling tricks could skew concentration levels and water quality being sent to the EPA.

No Plan To Reduce Discharge:

Finally, the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System was created to help reduce pollution in US waterways. Permitting agencies should include a plan on how they’re working to reduce chemical discharge in their NPDES permit.

Summary

The Chemours NPDES permit is one of many inadequate documents distributed by state governments. Although it’s easy to blame the permitting agency, it’s really the fault of the federal government for not supplying an improved uniform template. Federal and state governments should demand more stringent practices from polluters in terms of allowable limits, uniformity in terms of units, and consistent, thorough, sampling techniques.

Although this particular permit seems is inadequate, there are hundreds of active permits in the US that are much worse.  In future articles, we'll be shining some light onto these permits as well.

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Recap of January 25, 2017 H2GO Town Hall Meeting/Expert Panel

Analies Dyjak, Hydroviv Policy Analyst. 

This past Thursday, January 25th, H2GO and a local news agency hosted an informative meeting to update the public on the GenX crisis that’s unfolding in Brunswick County, North Carolina. The forum consisted of 3 scientists, 2 representatives from the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (NCDEQ), local utility providers, and a packed audience of concerned citizens. The mission of the meeting was to communicate to residents any recent actions and discoveries in this public health debacle.

Meeting Topic:  Growing Concern About Other PFASs

The public forum made it clear that the scientists and Brunswick County residents are becoming more and more concerned with other perfluroalkyl and polyfluroalkyl subscances (PFASs) that are also present in the Cape Fear River. The scientists concluded that they know even less about these contaminants, which is troubling considering how little is known about GenX.

Our Take:  While the presence of other PFASs are new to the nationwide press, they are not new to the scientific community.  Dr. Knappe's work has been going on for quite some time, and is highly-respected by the environmental science community (including our science team).  It's likely that GenX captured more attention than many other chemicals because it has an ominous (but easy to pronounce) nickname. 

Meeting Topic: Comments From State Regulatory Agencies

A representative from the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (NCDEQ) shared the three requests made by the Governor to the Environmental Protection Agency; expedite water quality data on GenX, expedite the risk assessment so that national and state standards could be set, and review the consent order under the Toxic Substance Control Act

Our Take On This:  This feels a bit like grandstanding, becasue there are thousands of unregulated contaminants that are currently “in review” by the EPA, and the Clean Water Act only allows a MAXIMUM of 30 unregulated contaminants to be monitored in drinking water every 5 year period.  The timescales for progress in these types of things are measured in decades, not months.  For reference, chromium 6, whose toxicity and occurrence in US drinking water systems has been established for decades, is still not regulated.  This is despite being the fact that it was made famous by the Erin Brockovich Movie (released in 2000).

 

What Is Hydroviv Doing To Help Remediate Perfluorinated Compounds (Including GenX) In Drinking Water?

As a company, we're not really in a position to push for long-term regulatory changes, but we have heavily invested in a rapid R&D program to develop an under sink water filtration system that is optimized for GenX removal.  Unlike reverse osmosis filters, our system does not require the user to drill a hole in their drain pipe or countertop, so our water filters can be used by homeowners and renters alike. 

Of course, our Water Nerds are also standing by to answer questions about GenX, PFASs, regulatory policy.... even if you have no intention of purchasing one of our filters.  Open a chat line on our homepage with one of our Water Nerds or send us an email at hello@hydroviv.com.

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GenX Contamination In Drinking Water: What You Need To Know

Updated November 18, 2017 to include water filter performance data, on May 15, 2018 to include video, and June 22, 2018 to reflect a new toxicological profile that was generated by CDC.
 

There has been some major news coverage about "GenX" and other pre GenX perfluoroalkyl/polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs) contamination in North Carolina.  Whenever something like this makes it into the news, the facts can quickly become obscured, so the aim of this article is to summarize a few key things to know about GenX and other PFASs in drinking water.

What Is GenX?

GenX chemical structure Chemours

GenX is a trade name for a chemical (deduced structure shown above) that went into production around 2010 as an alternative to a perfluorooctanoic acid (also known as PFOA or C8) in the synthesis of  PTFE (ie Teflon).  GenX is therefore essential for the production of common household products including non-stick pans, firefighting foam, and common outdoor fabrics (e.g. Gore-Tex).

Why Do We Care About GenX And Chemicals Like It?

It's pretty simple:  1.  These chemicals are known to be toxic (and this link too)  2.  They are persistent in the environment, which means that they don't break down, and can contaminate water far from the contamination source.

Is GenX Regulated By EPA?

No.  Which means that there are no regulatory limits, and municipalities are not required to test for it.  There are a lot of chemicals that fall into this category.

Why Is This Such A Big Problem In North Carolina?

A company called Chemours (which was originally spun out of Dupont) produces GenX at a plant in Fayetteville, NC.  Discharge from this plant contaminates the Cape Fear watershed.  

Are There "Safe" Levels of GenX And Other PFAS In Drinking Water?

Remember, while it's uncomfortable to think about chemicals of any kind existing in drinking water at any concentration, we try and remind people that the dose makes the poison.  The example that we like to use is that drinking seawater will kill you from the high salt levels, but putting a pinch of salt in your soup broth is completely fine.  The same is true for any chemical.  The most credible information that exists at this time on toxicity of PFAS comes from a toxicological profile done by US Center For Disease Control (CDC).  In this report, CDC establishes a health advisory level of 20 parts per trillion for the cumulative sum of all PFAS in drinking water, using lifetime exposure levels.  

How To Filter GenX And Other PFAS From Drinking Water

If you live in an area that has PFAS levels over the CDC's Health Advisory Levels, you have a few options to remove PFAS.  Obviously, as a water filter company, we're partial to our under sink water filtration system and refrigerator and ice maker water filter that were shown to effectively remove GenX in the home of a Wilmington, NC customer under real-world conditions (Reports Can Be Viewed HERE and HERE).  These tests were part of an ongoing monitoring program, and we did not pay for the testing. These reports show that the systems effectively filtered GenX and other PFAS under real-world conditions, for the entire 6 month filter lifetime.  Other systems that use reverse osmosis have also been shown to be effective, but they are not without downsides.  Our advice to consumers is to demand data collected in real-world conditions (real tap water), not testing in otherwise pure water. 

Note:  Hydroviv is not affiliated in any way with CFPUA or NC State.

GenX Water Filter

GenX water filter for refrigerator

At Hydroviv, we custom-build water filters using a different approach than reverse osmosis, because of the real-world problems encountered by reverse osmosis users. Instead, our scientists custom-formulate our filter cartridges so they are optimized for each customer's water.  There's a lot of proprietary stuff behind what we do, but in the name of transparency we wanted to give more information that we'd normally give about what we are doing to formulate filters for highly soluble compounds like GenX.

1.  We formulate our submicron filter blocks with a blend of activated carbons and elevated levels of a highly porous metal oxide sorbants that other fluoroalkyl compounds have been shown to stick to in the scientific literature. 

2.  We tighten up the pore sizes of our filters, which slows down the flow and increases the amount of time that the water is in contact with the filtration media, so we get much better removal efficiency when compared to granular or powdered media.

Our filters can be ordered through our product pages, and our experts will automatically use your shipping address to know if you are part of the impacted region.  

What Are Official Positions On The Situation?

Dupont:  In summary, they are saying that even though Chemours is a Dupont spinoff company, they have no comment because it's now a separate entity.

Chemours:  Deafening silence

Municipalities in Southeast North Carolina:  "We are in full compliance of Federal Regulations"

Hydroviv:  No kidding.  You can't be out of compliance if it's not a regulated chemical.

Want More Information About GenX and PFAS In Drinking Water?

We recommend that people take advantage of our "Help no matter what" approach to technical support.  Our Water Nerds are happy to discuss our products, or point you to our competitors' products that have also been shown to work.  We have been staffing our live chat line through extended hours to answer questions that people may have.  If our chat line is busy, you can drop us an email at hello@hydroviv.com.  

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