NORWALK, Conn. – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has changed its guidelines for toxic “forever chemicals” that were found in Norwalk First Taxing District water three years ago.
In 2019, the First Taxing District revealed that tests found PFAs – perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances – in two of its five wells, but when the water was blended the result was lower than the then-current EPA advisory PFA level. The wells were shut down.
Tuesday’s EPA advisory slashed the PFA standard. First Taxing District officials did not reply to a Thursday email seeking a response to the EPA’s announcement and clarification on its import.
“The new advisories cut the safe level of chemical PFOA by more than 17,000 times what the agency had previously said was protective of public health, to now just four ‘parts per quadrillion.’ The safe level of a sister chemical, PFOS, was reduced by a factor of 3,500,” Yahoo News reports.
“The updated advisory levels, which are based on new science and consider lifetime exposure, indicate that some negative health effects may occur with concentrations of PFOA or PFOS in water that are near zero and below EPA’s ability to detect at this time. The lower the level of PFOA and PFOS, the lower the risk to public health,” EPA states.
The First Taxing District initially tested for PFAs in December 2018, after the State Department of Public Health requested that districts with more than 10,000 customers test the water, a State official said three years ago.
The results for two of the district’s five wells reportedly came back higher than 70 parts per trillion, higher than the EPA advisory at that time, but then-First Taxing District General Manager) Dominick DiGangi said the blend of the water tested at 38 parts per trillion, which was lower than that advisory.
Connecticut has since updated its Action Level for PFAS to specify 10 parts per trillion PFOS and 16 parts per trillion PFOA as the “more protective of public health than the previous Action Level” of 70 parts for trillion.
“We are in communications with the First District Water and South Norwalk Electric Water to monitor the situation and will have more updates in the near future,” Norwalk Director of Communications Michelle Woods Matthews said Friday.
In 2019, Mayor’s Water Quality Committee Chairman Joe Schnierlein called the taxing district’s test results “almost an emergency,” while Brian Toal of the Connecticut Department of Public Health said he’d let his children drink the district’s water.
Toal said, it’s “highly likely” the level of PFAs in that water are at or below what people are getting from all other sources. “…. Test the surface water in any reservoir anywhere in United States or in Connecticut, there’s a decent chance that the level of PFAs in that water is the same as is being delivered here… at least your water has been tested and you know what the level is.”
Schnierlein said Thursday that he wasn’t aware of EPA’s new advisory.
“I believed then as I do now believe that any in our drinking water is a risk for residents, as some may be more affected than others by varying amounts in the water,” he wrote. “In doing homework on this, there are filters that can be installed in homes to help minimize the levels.”
He explained, “Activated charcoal filters appeared to help the most. These are not hard to find. But when I was researching this a while back, Culligan, at that time advertised they could remove it. I don’t know if the still can. As you know, what a company advertises and what they can actually do can be two different things. I tried asking the water depts and they had no suggestions.”
EPA’s new advisories are “the latest action under President Biden’s action plan to deliver clean water and Administrator Regan’s PFAS Strategic Roadmap,” EPA states. “EPA also announced that it is inviting states and territories to apply for $1 billion – the first of $5 billion in Bipartisan Infrastructure Law grant funding – to address PFAS and other emerging contaminants in drinking water, specifically in small or disadvantaged communities.”
Update 5:36 p.m., 2 a.m. Saturday: Information added.