July 10, 2018
MONTPELIER – The Vermont Department of Health has updated its health advisory for drinking water of 20 parts per trillion (ppt) to cover five per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). PFAS are a large group of human-made chemicals that have been used in industry and consumer products worldwide since the 1950s. Exposure to certain PFAS may affect different systems in the human body.
The previous health advisory of 20 ppt for PFOA and PFOS combined was issued in 2016 following the discovery of PFOA in private drinking water wells in Bennington and a public drinking water supply well in Pownal, Vermont.
Vermont Health Advisory for Drinking Water = 20 parts per trillion
The health advisory for PFAS in drinking water now includes three more PFAS in addition to PFOA and PFOS. Added together, the levels of these PFAS may not exceed 20 parts per trillion (ppt):
· PFOA - perfluorooctanoic acid
· PFOS - perfluorooctane sulfonic acid
· PFHxS - perfluorohexane sulfonic acid
· PFHpA - perfluoroheptanoic acid
· PFNA - perfluorononanoic acid
Some studies show that these PFAS may affect growth, learning and behavior in babies and older children, lower a woman’s chance of getting pregnant, interfere with the body’s natural hormones, increase cholesterol levels, affect the immune system, and increase the risk of cancer. The likelihood of having a health effect due to PFAS exposure depends on how much an individual was exposed to, and for how long.
To date, all analytical methods used to examine PFAS in drinking water test for these five compounds. Until 2018, the PFAS predominantly found in drinking water in Vermont was PFOA. With the Department of Environmental Conservation’s (DEC) expanded testing of sites around the state, other PFAS – including PFHxS and PFHpA – have been found at levels that triggered the Health Department to expand its health advisory. All five PFAS compounds now included in the health advisory can be effectively removed from drinking water with the use of carbon filtration point-of-entry treatment systems (POETS).
Working with Affected Residents and Businesses
The DEC has reviewed all PFAS test results and has notified the limited number of locations that have exceeded the updated health advisory. These locations will be re-sampled and bottled water offered to those affected. POETS have been installed in the impacted homes and businesses in Bennington, Shaftsbury, Pownal and Clarendon to remove all five PFAS compounds. If the combined results of the five PFAS compounds are found to be above 20 ppt, the DEC will work with the property owner to install a permanent drinking water solution.
State Launches Statewide Testing Pilot for PFAS at 10 Schools
PFAS is often found in floor cleaning products, stripping chemicals, waxes, and polish that may be used to maintain flooring at schools. Schools with on-site drinking water wells are more likely to have been affected by PFAS used in floor cleaners and waxes than schools on public drinking water systems. Schools that are on a public drinking water system are not affected. This week, the DEC will begin sampling at 10 schools to determine if PFAS entered the environment and impacted groundwater when cleaning water carrying PFAS was emptied directly onto the ground or into a school’s septic system. This project is a partnership with the Department of Health and Agency of Education.
The school testing is part of the DEC’s broader PFAS sampling approach. After the discovery of PFAS in drinking water in Bennington, the DEC developed the statewide PFAS sampling plan to strategically investigate numerous sources of PFAS. DEC officials have already tested several locations where PFAS was used, including wire coating facilities, semi-conductor facilities, battery manufacturing facilities, and airports. The sampling report located on DEC website provides an overview of the findings and offers a look ahead into additional work needed in the future.
More information is available
To find out more about Vermont’s PFAS sampling plan and information for affected communities, visit the DEC PFOA webpage at http://dec.vermont.gov/commissioners-office/pfoa/communities.
For more information about health and PFAS in drinking water, visit the Health Department’s website: www.healthvermont.gov/environment/drinking-water/perfluoroalkyl-and-polyfluoroalkyl-substances-pfas-drinking-water
# # #