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How Do Hurricanes Affect Your Drinking Water?

Emily Driehaus @ Thursday, June 3, 2021 at 3:39 pm -0400

Emily Driehaus  |  Science Communication Intern   

The start of hurricane season not only brings the threat of deadly storms, but also the potential for problems with drinking water infrastructure and systems. Heavy rain and flooding from hurricanes can interfere with both public and private water systems and contaminate water sources, leaving individuals without safe drinking water for days after a hurricane.

Drinking Water Contamination From Stormwater Runoff

Stormwater runoff can contaminate both groundwater and surface water during a hurricane. As stormwater runs into a storm drain or the nearest body of water, it picks up both biological and chemical contaminants from the ground that make their way into the water supply. Impervious surfaces exacerbate this problem, as stormwater cannot penetrate the ground and instead sits on top of these surfaces, contributing to flooding during a hurricane. Some local governments, such as Washington, D.C. and other municipalities surrounding the Chesapeake Bay, are working to combat this issue by replacing impervious surfaces with materials that soak up stormwater and allow it to permeate the ground instead of sitting on top of surfaces gathering contaminants that harm drinking water supply. 

Hurricane Flooding and Water Systems

The large influx of water from hurricane rain and flooding can overwhelm both public and private water systems, leading to the overflow of sewers, wells and other parts of water infrastructure. Combined sewer overflows are systems designed to collect stormwater runoff, sewage and other wastewater to be transported to a wastewater treatment plant to be treated before moving to a larger body of water. Hurricane rain and flooding can cause these systems to overflow and untreated water can spill into nearby water sources, potentially contaminating drinking water supply. Wells can also be contaminated with sewage, bacteria and other microorganisms due to hurricane flooding. 

Hurricanes and Water Treatment Facilities

Water treatment plants are not immune to the power outages and structural damage caused by hurricane winds. Treatment plants can lose power and infrastructure can be damaged during a hurricane, leaving facilities without the ability to treat water. Equipment and infrastructure in water treatment plants can also be contaminated by runoff and floodwater. The inability of treatment plants to treat water due to power outages leads to boil water notices to ensure people in the affected area are not ingesting biological contaminants through their drinking water. 

Case Study: Hurricane Harvey

Hurricane Harvey made landfall in southeast Texas on August 25, 2017, and bombarded the Gulf Coast with heavy rain and wind for days. The Category 4 storm caused $125 million in damage in Texas and Louisiana, including damage to water systems. According to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, 61 public drinking water systems and 40 wastewater facilities were declared inoperable and 203 boil water notices were issued during the storm. Flooding also damaged chemical and energy plants in the area, leading to the contamination of surface water and drinking water reservoirs with sewage, wastewater and toxic chemicals. All inoperable facilities, except one wastewater facility, were restored in the cleanup process following the storm. However, tap water was not safe to drink in some communities for months, with boil water notices lasting into December for some areas affected by the storm.  

How To Prepare for Water Service Interruptions in a Hurricane

The best way to avoid losing access to clean drinking water is to prepare before the storm arrives. The National Hurricane Survival Initiative recommends beginning preparations as far in advance as possible to avoid the chaos at stores right before a hurricane hits. Buying bottled water is an option for individuals preparing for a hurricane, but prices can increase dramatically right before a storm due to increased demand. Alternatively, individuals can store their own water in the days before a hurricane hits. The NHSI recommends storing water in containers made out of durable materials, such as plastic bottles. Because hurricanes can leave water treatment plants without power and contaminate water sources, individuals should prepare enough water, about a gallon, per person for at least three days.

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PFAS or "Forever Chemicals" in Massachusetts Drinking Water

Analies Dyjak @ Thursday, May 6, 2021 at 10:28 am -0400

Analies Dyjak, M.A. | Head of Policy   

The State of Massachusetts recently implemented new testing requirements and water quality standards for 6 different PFAS variations. PFAS (Per and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances) are a federally unregulated contaminant known to cause adverse health effects, including cancer. These new requirements have forced municipalities to take a closer look at the safety of their drinking water. This article will address what PFAS compounds are, the "safe" levels in Massachusetts drinking water, and water filtration brands that actually remove them. 

New PFAS Law in Massachusetts

Massachusetts became one of the first states to adopt drinking water standards for PFAS chemicals in January, 2021. Prior to January of this year, municipal water suppliers throughout Massachusetts were not required to test for PFAS compounds, nor remove them. It's important to point out that PFAS are not a new issue in Massachusetts tap water, and that they have been used in various types of manufacturing since the 1950's. The only major change is that now municipalities are required to test for it. 

In October, 2020, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection set an enforceable standard of 20 parts per trillion for the sum of six PFAS compounds in drinking water. The six compounds, called PFAS6, are: PFOS, PFOA, PFHxS, PFNA, PFHpA, and PFDA. This regulation means that if a water sample exceeds 20 parts per trillion for all six compounds, that the municipal provider is in violation of the state law.  

What Are Per and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances?

Per and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) are a category of harmful compounds that can be found in drinking water sources across the country. PFAS can take hundreds of years to degrade in the environment which is why you may see them referred to as ‘forever chemicals.’ PFAS are not currently regulated at the federal level, but some states have created regulations or monitoring criteria, including Massachusetts. They are known to increase the risk of cancer, increase cholesterol, increase the risk of miscarriage by 80-120%, and several other negative health outcomes. According to the National Institute of Health, over 4,700 different PFAS variations have been used in some type of manufacturing since the 1950’s. PFAS enter drinking water when they are disposed of in groundwater, surface water, or manufacturing retention ponds. 

Is 20 ppt Safe?

There’s a bit of uncertainty around the “safe level” of exposure to PFAS compounds. There are only a handful of studies that assess associated health impacts, and most agree that more research is necessary to make a determination. In 2016, EPA set a non-enforceable Health Advisory Level of 70 parts per trillion for combined PFOA and PFOS. More recent data suggests that this level is far to high to provide meaningful protection against a range of negative health impacts. A more recent study found that a “safe level” or PFAS could be as low as 0.1 parts per trillion. Although the Massachusetts PFAS standard is on the lower end of state limits, our team would rather see even less PFAS allowed in municipal tap water. 

Not All Water Filters Remove PFAS

If you live in Massachusetts and you’re looking for a solution, it’s important to understand that not all water filters are able to remove PFAS chemicals. Duke University completed a study in 2020 that tested various filtration brands and their ability to remove PFAS from drinking water. The results found that popular brands including Brita and Pur did not do a good job of removing PFAS compounds. Refrigerator filters tested by the Duke research team, including; Samsung, Whirlpool, and GE, also failed to remove PFAS. The full results of this study can be found here. Hydroviv filters are both NSF certified and third-party tested to remove PFAS chemicals. To request our full testing and removal data, please email hello@hydroviv.com

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PFAS Water Filters for Easton, Massachusetts

Analies Dyjak @ Monday, April 26, 2021 at 11:16 am -0400

Analies Dyjak, M.A. | Head of Policy   

Recent testing requirements in the State of Massachusetts have forced local governments to take a closer look at the safety of their drinking water. These new requirements have revealed that Easton, Massachusetts, has elevated levels of PFAS in their tap water. This article will address what PFAS compounds are, the levels in Easton drinking water, and water filtration brands that actually remove them. 

PFAS in Easton, Massachusetts

The City of Easton, Massachusetts recently reported that PFAS are present in the city’s drinking water supply. State-level regulations of PFAS chemicals are relatively new, particularly in Massachusetts. Municipal water supplies were not required to even test for PFAS compounds until January 2021, when the state implemented these requirements. Up until that point, people in Easton and many other municipalities in Massachusetts did not know they were being exposed to this potentially cancer-causing chemical. 

In October, 2020, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection set an enforceable standard of 20 parts per trillion for the sum of six PFAS compounds in drinking water. The six compounds, called PFAS6, are: PFOS, PFOA, PFHxS, PFNA, PFHpA, and PFDA. This regulation means that if a water sample exceeds 20 parts per trillion for all six compounds, that the municipal provider is in violation of the state law. The table below shows elevated levels of PFAS in Easton source water. A more detailed and thorough analysis of these results can be found on the Easton, MA, website dedicated to PFAS testing.   

What Are Per and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances?

Per and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) are a category of harmful compounds that can be found in drinking water sources across the country. PFAS can take hundreds of years to degrade in the environment which is why you may see them referred to as ‘forever chemicals.’ PFAS are not currently regulated at the federal level, but some states have created regulations or monitoring criteria, including Massachusetts. They are known to increase the risk of cancer, increase cholesterol, increase the risk of miscarriage by 80-120%, and several other negative health outcomes. According to the National Institute of Health, over 4,700 different PFAS variations have been used in some type of manufacturing since the 1950’s.

Is 20 ppt Safe?

There’s a bit of uncertainty around the “safe level” of exposure to PFAS compounds. There are only a handful of studies that assess associated health impacts, and most agree that more research is necessary to make a determination. In 2016, EPA set a non-enforceable Health Advisory Level of 70 parts per trillion for combined PFOA and PFOS. More recent data suggests that this level is far to high to provide meaningful protection against a range of negative health impacts. A recent study also found that a “safe level” or PFAS could be as low as 0.1 parts per trillion. Although the Massachusetts PFAS standard is on the lower end of state limits, our team would rather see even less PFAS allowed in municipal tap water. 

Not All Water Filters Remove PFAS

If you live in Easton and you’re looking for a solution, it’s important to understand that not all water filters are able to remove PFAS chemicals. Duke University completed a study in 2020 that tested various filtration brands and their ability to remove PFAS from drinking water. The results found that popular brands including Brita and Pur did not do a good job of removing PFAS compounds. Refrigerator filters tested by the Duke research team, including; Samsung, Whirlpool, and GE, also failed to remove PFAS. The full results of this study can be found here. Hydroviv filters are both NSF certified and third-party tested to remove PFAS chemicals. To request our full testing and removal data, please email hello@hydroviv.com

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New Legislation Aims to Tackle Coal Ash Pollution

Water Nerd @ Thursday, April 22, 2021 at 2:00 pm -0400

Emma Johnson | Scientific Contributor   

After a drainage pipe burst at a Duke Energy coal ash containment basin in North Carolina in 2014, the nearby Dan River turned black. 39,000 tons of coal ash – the waste created in the process of burning coal to make electricity – poured into the river for a week, coating the banks in sludge and infusing the water with toxic pollutants like arsenic, iron, and lead. The river was a source of drinking water for communities in North Carolina and Virginia, who were worried about the effect of the spill on their health. Duke was still working on cleanup and restoration projects five years after.

Coal ash spills remain a worry today as coal power plants remain in operation around the country. To begin rectifying this enormous problem, Rep. Steve Cohen (D) from Tennessee introduced a bill to the U.S. House of Representatives on April 8 to “amend the Solid Waste Disposal Act to ensure the safe disposal of coal combustion residuals.” 

The bill would put back coal ash protections that the Trump administration had removed. Some of these include requiring power plants to pay for cleanup costs, prohibiting unlined waste ponds, and requiring regulatory oversight of coal ash facilities. The bill would also prevent coal ash ponds from being located near groundwater and increase public participation and protection for disadvantaged communities.

A 2019 study from the Environmental Integrity Project listed ten sites with the worst coal ash-contaminated groundwater, which spanned nine states. Using public industry data, the study found that the coal ash at 242 of 265 power plants examined contained unsafe levels of one or more toxic pollutants. In addition, more than 95% of coal ash storage ponds are unlined and 59% are built either beneath the water table or within 5 feet of it.

Coal ash also disproportionately affects poor communities and communities of color. 70% of coal ash ponds are located in low-income communities and more then 200 are known to have contaminated waterways, according to Appalachian Voices. People who live near these ponds can have elevated risks of cancer, lung and heart problems, and other serious health concerns.

In a statement about the bill, Cohen remarked on the danger that these spills pose, saying: “The measure I am introducing strengthens protections outlined in the 2015 Coal Ash Rule and protects communities by mandating safer and faster disposal of this dangerous waste product of electricity production.”

Cohen’s bill is waiting to be heard by the House Subcommittee on Environment and Climate Change and must make it through both the House and the Senate before it goes to the President’s desk for a signature and turned into law.

For advocates working to clean up coal ash around the country, this bill represents a big step in the right direction for addressing this long-standing pollutant. Christine Santillana, Legislative Counsel at Earthjustice, said, “This legislation aims to correct decades of coal ash mismanagement that has left communities around the country exposed to the toxic chemicals in our waterways.”

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PFAS Water Filters for Wayland, Massachusetts

Analies Dyjak @ Tuesday, April 20, 2021 at 5:22 pm -0400

Analies Dyjak, M.A. | Head of Policy   

The State of Massachusetts recently implemented new testing requirements and water quality standards for 6 different PFAS variations. PFAS (Per and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances) are a federally unregulated contaminant known to cause adverse health effects, including cancer. These new requirements have forced municipalities to take a closer look at the safety of their drinking water. This article will address what PFAS compounds are, the "safe" levels in Massachusetts drinking water, and water filtration brands that actually remove them. 

PFAS in Massachusetts

Massachusetts became one of the first states to adopt drinking water standards for PFAS chemicals in January, 2021. Prior to January of this year, municipal water suppliers throughout Massachusetts were not required to test for PFAS compounds until January 2021, when the state implemented these requirements. Up until that point, people in Wayland did not know they were being exposed to this potentially cancer-causing substance. 

In October, 2020, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection set an enforceable standard of 20 parts per trillion for the sum of six PFAS compounds in drinking water. The six compounds, called PFAS6, are: PFOS, PFOA, PFHxS, PFNA, PFHpA, and PFDA. This regulation means that if a water sample exceeds 20 parts per trillion for all six compounds, that the municipal provider is in violation of the state law. The table below shows elevated levels of PFAS in Wayland source water. A more detailed and thorough analysis of these results can be found on the Wayland, MA, website dedicated to PFAS testing.  

 

What Are Per and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances?

Per and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) are a category of harmful compounds that can be found in drinking water sources across the country. PFAS can take hundreds of years to degrade in the environment which is why you may see them referred to as ‘forever chemicals.’ PFAS are not currently regulated at the federal level, but some states have created regulations or monitoring criteria, including Massachusetts. They are known to increase the risk of cancer, increase cholesterol, increase the risk of miscarriage by 80-120%, and several other negative health outcomes. According to the National Institute of Health, over 4,700 different PFAS variations have been used in some type of manufacturing since the 1950’s.

Is 20 ppt Safe?

There’s a bit of uncertainty around the “safe level” of exposure to PFAS compounds. There are only a handful of studies that assess associated health impacts, and most agree that more research is necessary to make a determination. In 2016, EPA set a non-enforceable Health Advisory Level of 70 parts per trillion for combined PFOA and PFOS. More recent data suggests that this level is far to high to provide meaningful protection against a range of negative health impacts. A recent study also found that a “safe level” or PFAS could be as low as 0.1 parts per trillion. Although the Massachusetts PFAS standard is on the lower end of state limits, our team would rather see even less PFAS allowed in municipal tap water. 

Not All Water Filters Remove PFAS

If you live in Wayland and you’re looking for a solution, it’s important to understand that not all water filters are able to remove PFAS chemicals. Duke University completed a study in 2020 that tested various filtration brands and their ability to remove PFAS from drinking water. The results found that popular brands including Brita and Pur did not do a good job of removing PFAS compounds. Refrigerator filters tested by the Duke research team, including; Samsung, Whirlpool, and GE, also failed to remove PFAS. The full results of this study can be found here. Hydroviv filters are both NSF certified and third-party tested to remove PFAS chemicals. To request our full testing and removal data, please email hello@hydroviv.com

Other Articles We Think You Might Enjoy:
Yale: PFAS Increase The Risk of Miscarriage by 80-120%
PFAS Update: Spring 2021
Why Do Military Bases Have High Levels of PFAS Chemicals?