Military Bases Show High Levels of PFAS Contamination
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 GroundwaterMajor 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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What Do Municipalities Do To Prevent Lead From Leaching Into Drinking Water?
Analies Dyjak | Policy Nerd
Flint, Pittsburgh, Providence, and Portland are just some of the major U.S. cities dealing with high levels of lead in drinking water. Since Pittsburgh just began adding Orthophosphate to its distribution system, we decided to put together an article explaining what exactly this treatment technique is, and other popular municipal treatment techniques used for lead mitigation.
Why Is Lead Such A Big Problem And What Are We Doing To Fix It?
The 2014 drinking water crisis in Flint, Michigan made municipalities around the country turn the mirror on their own problems with lead contamination. Lead remains a major issue for cities and towns throughout the entire country. It may feel like Americans have been talking about lead exposure for years, so why is it still such a big problem? The answer is pretty simple: Homes in the U.S. built before 1986 most likely contain lead pipes, plumbing, and solder. To make matters worse, water distribution lines also tend to adhere to this cutoff date. Lead is still a big part of infrastructure in the United States.
Since municipalities are tasked with mitigating lead exposure, we wanted to go over some popular treatment techniques that are being used throughout the United States, and their effectiveness at removing lead from drinking water.
Orthophosphate: Corrosion Inhibitor
Orthophosphate is a common system-wide corrosion inhibitor. It’s created by combining phosphoric acid with zinc phosphate and sodium phosphate. Together these chemicals create a mineral-like crust on the inside of lead service lines. If municipalities are willing to follow a strict dosing and monitoring schedule, orthophosphate can be extremely effective at reducing lead levels in drinking water.
Other larger cities around the country have also adopted Orthophosphate as a solution for lead-contaminated drinking water. In June of 2004, Washington, D.C. introduced orthophosphate to its distribution system, following major District-wide lead contamination.
According to EPA, the health effects of phosphates are not well known and FDA has stated that they’re “generally recognized as safe.” The Lead and Copper Rule requires the use of polyphosphate or orthophosphate whenever a municipality is in exceedance of lead standards set by EPA. Both have been cited as effective, but some municipalities disagree. According to city officials in Madison, Wisconsin, utility providers tried both of these additives and neither of them effectively reduced lead levels in drinking water. Because they were unable to find a corrosion inhibitor that worked, Madison officials decided to mandate the removal of all lead service lines.
It’s important to remember that orthophosphate isn’t a permanent fix, nor does it magically remove lead pipes. Orthophosphate has been cited by EPA as an “interim Optimal Corrosion Control Treatment (OCCT) modification.” It will also increase your water bill. In Washington, D.C., orthophosphate costs DC Water customers approximately $700,000 annually.
Problems With Partial Lead Service Line Replacements
Partial service line replacements are another mitigation tool used to reduce lead exposure. To put it candidly: it's extremely invasive. People are often surprised to learn that lead levels actually increase in the months following a partial service line replacement. Water that comes in contact with lead-laden debris or freshly uncovered piping can easily become contaminated. This type of disruption negates any sort of expensive treatment being used by a utility provider, like orthophosphate. If a municipality is in exceedance with the 15 part per billion Action Level, they are mandated (under the Lead and Copper Rule) to replace a certain percentage of lead service lines every year. If you’re curious municipal requirements under the Lead and Copper Rule, click here!
Who Pays For Lead Line Replacements?
Ratepayers are typically responsible for paying for public water line replacements. However, homeowners are responsible for covering the cost of replacing lead service lines that distribute water directly into their homes. According to EPA, a homeowner that elects to do so can expect to pay anywhere from $2,500 to $8,000 per line. This is not feasible for most households in the United States. Additionally, people are still at risk of lead exposure because lead pipes may still exist at various locations throughout a distribution system. Some municipalities offer subsidies or rebates on private lead service line replacements, but not all. In Madison, Wisconsin for example, homeowners who are eligible can apply for a rebate which covers up to $1,500 of the line replacement.
Can pH Reduce Lead In Drinking Water?
Many municipalities believe that adjusting the pH of drinking water is the best way to reduce lead exposure, and here’s why: Acidic water increase corrosivity, which causes lead pipes to leach into drinking water. The idea is that by making water more alkaline (opposite direction on the pH scale), the corrosivity will decrease. This may sound good in theory, but a municipality must still correct for chloride when doing so. According to the World Health Organization, chloride “increases the electrical conductivity of water and thus increases its corrosivity” and “increases the rate of pitting corrosion of metal pipes.” Similar to the other treatments mentioned in this article, changing the pH of drinking water does not get rid of lead service lines. Additionally, maintaining a balanced pH throughout an entire distribution system is not an easy task.
How Do You Know If Lead Treatment Works?
Lead is different from other contaminants because problems arise at the tap, rather than the source water. The only way to truly know if a corrosion control method is working is to test every single tap (which is completely unfeasible). Under the Lead and Copper Rule, most municipalities are only required to test 50-100 homes every 3 years or every monitoring period. This is not nearly enough data for a larger municipality like New York City. There’s just no way to know if a system-wide treatment technique is working to the best of its ability, so the burden and responsibility is on the consumer.Other Articles We Think You Might Enjoy:
Lead: What You Need To Know
Orthophosphate and Lead Contamination
Why Are So Many Schools Testing Positive For Lead?
America's Water Infrastructure Act of 2018
Analies Dyjak | Policy Nerd
America’s Water Infrastructure Act (AWIA) of 2018 passed in the Senate on October 10th, 2018 in a 99-1 majority vote. The purpose of the bill is to update existing marine and freshwater infrastructure throughout the United States. Unfortunately, AWIA fails to address emerging contaminants that are currently impacting communities around the country. This article provides a brief overview of the bill, some of its major gaps, and what we think are priority drinking water issues.
What Does America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018 Include?
Flood Control Management:
Aside from the direct immediate threat from a storm surge, flooding can have serious impacts after the fact. An increased threat of biological contamination into a water supply, non-point source pollution, and damages to water distribution infrastructure are just some of the long term implications from flooding. AWIA plans to reauthorize and increase funding to reduce impacts from climate related events, as well as restoration projects. Projects impacted by this water legislation include dam restoration, funding for levee systems, and stormwater capture.
Reauthorization of the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA):
Under WIFIA, states that are eligible can apply for Clean Water State Revolving Funds and Drinking Water State Revolving Funds. WIFIA also includes development and implementation activities, such as lead service line replacements. AWIA plans to reauthorize funding for these programs.
Reauthorization of the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF):
Through the DWSRF, states can receive funding for various types of water-related projects. States are then required to prioritize projects that; address issues that pose a serious threat to human health, are necessary for a water system to reach compliance under the Safe Drinking Water Act, and assist high-risk water systems. AWIA plans to reauthorize funding for this program.
There’s no question that updating water infrastructure in the United States is completely necessary. However, the 2018 Water Infrastructure Act will not create meaningful changes to drinking water. A majority of the bill aims to reauthorize existing provisions, and make minor adjustments to certain acts. AWIA emphasizes the level at which policies address drinking water quality in this country: poorly. The bill reiterates the status quo, with zero attention to the new and emerging contaminants that are violently impacting communities around the country. Chromium 6, Per and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS), and Perchlorate are all industrial contaminants that were not touched upon in this bill. AWIA is also far too broad in scope. The provisions combined marine with freshwater infrastructure, without strictly focusing attention on drinking water.Other Articles We Think You Might Enjoy:
Lead and Copper Rule: What You Need To Know
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Problems We Found With Portland, Oregon Drinking Water
Analies Dyjak, M.A. | Policy Nerd
Updated August 2, 2019 to include current data
For Hydroviv’s assessment of Portland, Oregon drinking water quality, our Water Nerds collected test data from the Portland Water Bureau, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and other available data. 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 Portland’s drinking water.
Where Does Portland, Oregon Source Its Drinking Water?
Portland sources its drinking water from the Bull Run River which is located in Mt. Hood National Forest. Portland also draws drinking water from the Columbia South Shore Well Field, which is made up of 26 groundwater wells. The wells draw water from three different aquifers located on the perimeter of the Columbia River.
Lead In Portland’s Drinking Water
Lead contamination is by far of biggest concern in Portland, Oregon drinking water. Not only are the city wide lead levels among the highest in the country, lead contamination has been getting worse in recent years. According to the most recent data, the 90th percentile for lead in Portland drinking water is 11.9 parts per billion. This is just under the outdated Federal Action Level of 15 parts per billion. In recent years, the 90th percentile in Portland has exceeded the Federal Action Level. Additionally, to put things in perspective, EPA, CDC, and American Academy of Pediatrics all recognize that there is no safe level of lead for children.
The goal of annual Consumer Confidence Reports is to be as transparent as possible so that residents can be informed about problems with their drinking water. Unfortunately, Portland’s report was written in a way that leaves consumers confused when it comes to lead. When reading through the report, lead levels for the treated source water are displayed prominently. Of course, these lead levels are very low, because lead contaminates water as it flows through lead containing pipes found in the distribution system and the home’s plumbing. The relevant data for samples collected at the tap are buried in a small table on the next to last page, separate from the other contaminants.
Disinfection Byproducts In Portland’s Drinking Water
Portland’s municipal water also had high concentrations of Disinfection Byproducts or DBPs. Concentrations were detected as high as 44.5 parts per billion, and averaged 37.7 parts per billion for Total Trihalomethanes (TTHMs). Haloacetic Acids-5 (HAA5) concentrations were as high as 51.2 parts per billion and averaged 37.7 parts per billion. For a bit of perspective, EPA's Maximum Contaminant Level for TTHMs is 80 parts per billion and 60 parts per billion for HAA5. While Portland's water quality chemical concentrations are technically in compliance, these levels are definitely high. 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. 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.
Chloramine In Portland’s Drinking Water
While most municipalities use chlorine as the primary drinking water disinfectant, Portland’s drinking water is disinfected with chloramine. Chloramine is primarily responsible for what many customers report as the “bad taste” or “pool smell” of tap water. Unlike chlorine, chloramine does not dissipate if a container of water is left in the refrigerator overnight. Most one-size-fits-all water filters use filtration media that doesn’t do a great job removing chloramine, but the filters that we design and build at Hydroviv for Portland's water problems use a special filtration media that is purposefully designed to remove chloramine.
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 Portland’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 firstname.lastname@example.org.Other Articles We Think You Might Enjoy:
Lead Contamination In Drinking Water
Disinfection Byproducts In Drinking Water: What You Need To Know
Chlorine Vs. Chloramine: What You Need To Know
Superfund: Spring Park, Minnesota
Analies Dyjak | Policy Nerd
This week, Hydroviv is highlighting the six new National Priorities List (NPL) sites under the EPA Superfund program. Superfund sites are home to high levels of hazardous soil and groundwater contamination from years of improper disposal techniques. If you’d like to learn more about the ins and out of Superfund, check out our recap HERE. The next Superfund site that we’ll be discussing is located in Spring Park, Minnesota.
Spring Park, Minnesota is home to one of the six newly designated Superfund sites. The town’s municipal well field is contaminated with several industrial solvents such as trichloroethylene (TCE), 1,2-dichloroethylene (DCE) and vinyl chloride. There are 1,673 residents in Spring Park, all of which are serviced by the same municipal well field. Two of the three municipal wells currently exceed Maximum Contaminant Levels for TCE. EPA has stated that the source of the contamination is unknown, but all contaminants are frequently used as industrial solvents.
If you live near a Superfund site and are concerned about your water, drop us an email at email@example.com or visit hydroviv.com and use our live chat feature. Hydroviv is staffed with scientists and policy experts that can help you make sense of your water and find an effective filter, even if it isn’t one we sell.
The Ins And Outs Of Drinking Water Regulation
Analies Dyjak | Policy Nerd
As emerging contaminants like GenX, PFOA, and PFOS have been popping up in news headlines all over the country, there has been some confusion as to how these unregulated contaminants are addressed at the federal level. While it may seem like the Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule is in place to protect people from any and all emerging contaminants, it is not a hard and fast rule designed to expedite regulation -- rather, it is a lengthy process that unfortunately has not resulted in many real-world changes. This article discusses aspects of the Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule that may surprise you, and explains how drinking water contaminants become regulated in the United States.
What Is The Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule?
The Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule (UCMR) was created as a part of the 1996 Amendments of the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA). SDWA regulates all public drinking water systems throughout the United States. It establishes National Primary Drinking Water Regulations for 90 contaminants, which are known as Maximum Contaminant Levels (MCLs). UCMR is the process that EPA uses to regulate contaminants. However, it has ultimately failed to create meaningful changes in water quality regulation.
How Are Drinking Water Contaminants Regulated In The United States?
Under the Safe Drinking Water Act, EPA typically follows a specific process when determining whether to regulate certain contaminants. Every 5 years, EPA publishes a list of 30 contaminants under the UCMR called the Contaminant Candidate List (CCL). Contaminants on this list are not regulated by National Primary Drinking Water Regulations, but are most likely present in public drinking water systems. These contaminants are placed on the list because they pose the greatest public health risk through ingestion of drinking water. EPA’s job is to whittle down the list of 30 to a handful of priority contaminants. Of that group of priority contaminants, EPA must make a regulatory determination for at least 5. EPA can choose to regulate all, some, or none of these contaminants.
What Is The Criteria For UCMR Regulatory Determination?
EPA must determine that the contaminant does/does not cause adverse health effects in humans.
EPA must determine if the contaminant will be present in public drinking water systems at an unsafe concentration.
EPA Administrator must determine if regulating the contaminant will reduce adverse health effects in humans.
Does A Contaminant Have To Be On The CCL To Become Regulated?
No. EPA is not limited to regulating contaminants that are on the current CCL. EPA can consider other contaminants if they present a serious public health concern in drinking water.
Does the Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule Set Drinking Water Standards?
No. UCMR/CCL contaminants are not subject to regulation. As a part of the UCMR program, EPA establishes Minimum Reporting Levels (MRLs) for each contaminant. National Water Quality Laboratory defines MRLs as ”the smallest measured concentration of a substance that can be reliably measured by using a given analytical method.” MRLs are not to be confused with Maximum Contaminant Levels (MCLs), which are enforceable regulatory thresholds for drinking water contamination.
How Are Contaminants Added To The Contaminant Candidate List?
In order for a contaminant to be considered for the EPA UCMR, it must be registered in the United States and have an analytical reference standard. The National Drinking Water Advisory Council and National Academy of Sciences are instrumental in determining which contaminants should be added to the list. After UCMR 2, EPA allowed for public participation in the CCL decision making process. Additionally, a contaminant can be added to multiple CCLs. For example, Perchlorate was on CCL 1, CCL 2, and CCL 3 before it was regulated.
Common Contaminants Considered Under The Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule
The Third Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule (UCMR 3) was published in May of 2012, and it included two chemicals that you might be familiar with. Perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) and Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) were both on Contaminant Candidate List 3. Both of these contaminants fall under a broad category of contaminants called PFAS, which are found in heat resistant and non-stick products such as Scotchguard, Teflon, and fire fighting foam. Unfortunately, neither PFOS or PFOA made it to the Regulatory Determination Assessment Phase, and both were removed from regulatory consideration.
What Is The Contaminant Candidate List?
The Fourth Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule (UCMR 4) is the current batch of contaminants that’s under consideration for a regulatory determination. It was published in December of 2016, and includes nine cyanotoxins, two metals, nine pesticides, three disinfection byproducts, three alcohols, and three semivolatile organic chemicals.
While the 1996 Safe Drinking Water Act Amendments provided regulatory due diligence, they also created an unbearably extensive review process. Industrial manufacturing companies are unrestricted when it comes to developing new products, and chemicals pushed to the market are essentially “safe” until proven otherwise. This sort of regulatory approach comes at a serious cost to human health. Chromium 6 is the best example of the flawed regulatory framework for drinking water. The 2000 blockbuster movie “Erin Brockovich” discussed the dangerous toxicity of Chromium 6 and it still isn’t regulated, nor does it appear on the most recent Contaminant Candidate List (CCL 4). The most important takeaway from the EPA UCMR is that once a new CCL is published, the contaminants on the old list don’t just go away. Millions of Americans are forced to deal with adverse health effects because “scientific uncertainty” didn’t allow for regulation. This regulatory framework can't keep up with the thousands of new contaminants that are currently present in the environment.Other Articles We Think You Might Enjoy:
Municipal Drinking Water Compliance: What You Need To Know
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