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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. 

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Military Bases Show High Levels of PFAS Contamination

Analies Dyjak @ Thursday, May 24, 2018 at 4:52 pm -0400

Analies Dyjak  |  Policy Nerd

The drinking water crisis at the Pease Air Force Base resurfaced during the 2018 PFAS National Leadership Summit and Engagement. Representatives from the state of New Hampshire brought pressing questions and concerns to the EPA headquarters here in Washington, D.C. Per and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) have been flooding newspaper headlines this past year. This class of chemicals was historically used in food packaging, Teflon, Scotchgard, firefighting foam, and is now present in many drinking water sources in the United States.

PFAS Contamination in Groundwater 

Major news headlines calling attention to Per and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) have been appearing all over the country. PFAS contamination has invaded waterways and drinking water sources all the way from the west coast to Maine. The Pease Air Force Base in Portsmouth, New Hampshire has been in the public eye ever since it was designated by the Environmental Protection Agency as a Superfund site in 1991. Public and private wells surrounding the Air Force Base have been drawing drinking water from these wells for decades. Since the closure of the active Air Force Base, invested parties have been trying to figure out ways to redevelop this area, which is how the Pease International Tradeport came to be.

Functional Superfund Site?

Pease International Tradeport is home to businesses, shopping centers and several daycares. Many people have commended developers on their ability to convert this former military base into a functional business area. Prior to development of the new shopping center, Pease was an active Air Force Base from the early 1930s until its closure in 1991. Throughout those 60 years, Pease was home to six solid waste landfills, three spill sites, two firefighting training areas, a solvent disposal site, munition residual burial site, and a sledge disposal site. To be quite frank, Pease was a dumping ground for various types of military waste including PFAS. Even as of recent, developers built daycares that drew drinking water directly from contaminated areas. In 2014, the city of Portsmouth shut down a major municipal-owned well due to high levels of PFAS contamination. There is reasonable evidence that the source of the PFAS contamination was from the formerly active Pease Air Force Base. Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) is a class of PFAS that has historically been used as an ingredient in firefighting foam. Air Force bases typically use large quantities of firefighting foam for training exercises. PFOA is being phased out of the market, but it has proved to be a challenging task to find an effective alternative. The Pease Air Force Base is now a designated Superfund site and is required to meet the criteria of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA). This project is sweeping in scope because of the size of the military base and the duration that it was in operation. 

Is Groundwater Contamination Common on Military Bases?

Contaminated groundwater is a common occurrence in both active and inactive military bases, many of which are Superfund sites. Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville, North Carolina has 26 designated clean-up areas. McClellan Air Force Base in California has 326 waste areas of both known and suspected contamination. In fact, more than two-thirds of all designated Superfund sites are military bases. This type of groundwater contamination ranges from PFAS, to benzene, to lead, to trichloroethylene and many other harmful carcinogens. Because of the high level of uncertainty and potentially affected parties, EPA representatives announced at the summit that Portsmouth, New Hampshire would likely be the first stop on their nationwide PFAS tour.

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Problems We Found In Fresno's Drinking Water

Analies Dyjak @ Monday, July 2, 2018 at 10:18 am -0400

Analies Dyjak  |  Policy Nerd
Updated July 18, 2019 to include current data

For Hydroviv’s assessment of Fresno, California’s drinking water quality issues, we aggregated water quality test data from the City of Fresno Water Quality Division, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and supplemental health information. We cross referenced these 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 Fresno’s drinking water.

Where does Fresno Source its Drinking Water?

Fresno sources its drinking water from both groundwater and surface water sources. The city has 260 groundwater wells that draw water from the Fresno Sole Source Aquifer. Additionally, the city draws water from the Millerton and Pine Flat lakes which is delivered to the city via the Fresno Irrigation District canals.

Chromium 6 In Fresno’s Drinking Water

Fresno drinking water has some of the highest levels of Chromium 6 among major cities in the U.S. Chromium 6 is a highly toxic metal that is currently unregulated by the EPA. In the most recent Consumer Confidence Report, the city disclosed that the average concentration of Chromium 6 in drinking water was 2800 parts per trillion, and the highest level detected was 11,000 parts per trillion. For a bit of perspective, the California Water Boards previously set a public health goal of 20 parts per trillion for Chromium 6 in drinking water. 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. Acute respiratory disease, cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, hematological, hepatic, renal, and neurological distress are health effects associated with high levels of chromium 6 exposure.

Synthetic Contaminants Found In Fresno's Drinking Water 

1,2 Dibromochloroporpane (DBCP) is a banned nematocide that was developed as a replacement for DDT. It was banned in 1979 but is still extremely persistent in the environment. In this years water quality report the average concentration detected in Fresno's water was 27 parts per trillion and the highest concentration detected was 170 parts per trillion. For a bit of perspective, this level is just under the regulatory limit of 200 parts per trillion. DBCP is an endocrine disruptor that specifically effects the male reproductive system. Additionally, several industrial solvents were detected in Fresno's drinking water. 1,2 Dichloroethylene, Tetrachloroethylene (PCE), and Trichloroethylene (TCE) were among some of the present contaminants. Little is known about their carcinogenic potential or other adverse health effects. Many of these contaminants are the result of industrial discharge, the byproduct of dry cleaning ingredients, or used in metal degreasing. 

Arsenic In Fresno’s Drinking Water

Arsenic is another carcinogenic heavy metal that was recently detected in Fresno’s drinking water. The 2017 Consumer Confidence Report disclosed that Fresno's water problems exceeded the California Public Health Goal of 0.004 parts per billion and was barely in compliance with the loose EPA Maximum Contaminant Level of 10 parts per billion. The highest level detected in Fresno’s water was 5.6 parts per billion and the overall average was 0.7 parts per billion. The Arsenic levels in Fresno were high enough that the city was required to make a statement in their report, notifying residents of the contamination. Arsenic is a toxic substance that is linked to a long list of health problems in humans, including various forms of cancer, and problems with the cardiovascular, immune, neurological and endocrine systems. Unlike several industrial chemicals, arsenic naturally occurs in bedrock. If you use a private well we highly recommend purchasing a filter to remove arsenic from your water.

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 Fresno’s tap water quality problems, 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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Newly Designated Superfund Sites

Analies Dyjak @ Monday, June 11, 2018 at 4:23 pm -0400

Analies Dyjak, M.A.  |  Policy Nerd

Updated November 19, 2020

EPA added 6 sites to the National Priorities List under the Superfund program during the spring of 2019. Cyanide, Lead, Tetrachloroethene (PCE), Trichloroethylene (TCE), 1,2-dichloroethylene (DCE), vinyl chloride, and Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs) are just some of the toxic chemicals found at the newly designated sites. Our team is working around the clock to analyze each situation and put together articles and videos explaining how each site can impact your drinking water. Make sure to follow along and subscribe to our Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube as we discuss where each site is located and the contaminants that are present.

What is a Superfund Site?

In 1980, the Carter administration decided to address years of environmental degradation by creating the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA), commonly known as Superfund. Superfund establishes requirements concerning closed and abandoned hazardous waste sites, holds responsible parties liable for releases of hazardous waste, and establishes a fund to pay for remediation when a responsible party cannot be identified. Superfund is not necessarily a “cradle to grave” statute. It was established to clean up years of hazardous waste before disposal practices were being regulated, which is why many responsible parties cannot be identified.

Why Is Superfund Important?

Hazardous waste and designated Superfund sites almost always end up affecting drinking water sources. Over periods of time, toxic sludge and vapor plumes at these abandoned hazardous waste sites seep into groundwater. The concern to humans is that the same contaminated groundwater is commonly used as a drinking source for a community. In fact, all 6 of the recently designated Superfund sites involve some sort of groundwater contamination. Many of the toxic chemicals found at Superfund sites are either known carcinogens or extremely toxic.

Federal Superfund Site Delegation Process

Prior to EPA’s delegation of a Superfund site, research, community involvement, and site inspections at the state and federal level must be conducted. This process can take years which is why it’s important to stay current with public notices within your community. Once the site meets certain standards, it’s added to the National Priorities List and officially becomes a designated Superfund site. CERCLA has the jurisdiction to delegate two types of response actions; short term removals and long term remedial response actions. For the purpose of this article, we will only be referring to long term remedial response actions. Long term actions permanently reduce the danger associated with releases of hazardous substances. These actions are dubbed serious, but not immediately life threatening. Short term and long term actions are both registered on EPA’s National Priorities List. This list is significant because it’s EPA’s way of addressing that there’s a serious problem that requires some sort of federal involvement. Superfund cleanup efforts are reviewed once every 5 years to see if remedial goals have been met. A site is removed from the National Priorities List once all response and remediation action has occurred. Typically, total remediation of a federal Superfund site can take decades because of the scope of groundwater and soil contamination.

Sources of Contaminants

As previously stated, the EPA detected several hazardous chemicals at each of the federal Superfund sites. The most common being Tetrachloroethene (PCE), which is commonly used by dry cleaning facilities. EPA also detected Trichloroethylene (TCE) which is an industrial solvent, typically used as a metal degreaser as well as a refrigerant in older refrigerators. Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs) which were historically used in electrical manufacturing. Cyanide, lead, chromium 6, and mercury, were among some of the other toxic contaminants that EPA detected.

Make sure to follow along this week to learn more about each of the Superfund sites. We’ll be walking through each site, the contaminants that were detected and their toxicity. As always, we encourage you to take advantage of Hydroviv's "Help No Matter What" technical support policy, where we answer questions related to drinking water and water filtration, even if you have no desire to purchase our products. Drop us a line at hello@hydroviv.com

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Breaking: ATSDR Releases Toxicological Profile for Perfluoroalkyl Substances

Analies Dyjak @ Wednesday, June 20, 2018 at 5:09 pm -0400

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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