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What are PFAS?

Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) are a group of manufactured chemicals that have been used in industry and consumer products since the 1940s. There are thousands of different PFAS, some of which have been more widely used and studied than others. One common concern is that PFAS generally break down very slowly, meaning that concentrations can accumulate in people, animals, and the environment over time.

Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA) and Perfluorooctane Sulfonate (PFOS) are two of the most widely used and studied chemicals in the PFAS group. PFOA and PFOS have been replaced in the United States with other PFAS in recent years. In chemical and product manufacturing, GenX chemicals are considered a replacement for PFOA, and perfluorobutane sulfonate (PFBS) is considered a replacement for PFOS.

Does my water meet all state and federal standards for drinking water?

Yes, water supplied by East Lyme Water is in compliance with all state and federal drinking water standards. If there are further requirements for PFAS testing or additional information becomes available on the health considerations or drinking water standards for PFAS, we will communicate to customers.

What actions is East Lyme Water taking to address these chemicals and protect consumers?

As the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Department of Public Health (DPH), and the Connecticut legislature work on refining testing protocols, assessment guidelines, and standards, East Lyme Water remains committed to adhering to any monitoring and testing requirements for our systems. We are actively exploring advanced treatment methods and alternative water sources as part of our efforts to reduce or eliminate PFAS in our water system.

What are the current drinking water standards?

Currently, there are no established state or federal drinking water quality standards (Maximum Contaminant Level or MCL) for any chemical within the PFAS family. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and regulatory bodies in Connecticut and various states are actively collaborating to formulate appropriate standards for these chemicals in drinking water. East Lyme Water is committed to engaging with industry peers and regulators throughout this process to ensure the best possible service for our customers.

In 2016, the EPA set a health advisory for PFOA and PFOS at 70 parts per trillion (ppt), applicable to either contaminant alone or the sum of the two. The EPA introduced a PFAS Action Plan in February 2019, aiming to outline short-term actions, ongoing research, and potential regulatory approaches led by the EPA to mitigate risks associated with PFAS in the environment.

In March 2023, the EPA proposed a National Primary Drinking Water Regulation (NPDWR) to establish legally enforceable levels, known as Maximum Contaminant Levels (MCLs), for six PFAS in drinking water. These include PFOA and PFOS as individual contaminants, and PFHxS, PFNA, PFBS, and HFPO-DA (commonly known as GenX Chemicals) as a PFAS mixture. The EPA is also suggesting health-based, non-enforceable Maximum Contaminant Level Goals (MCLGs) for these six PFAS.

The proposed rule entails requirements for public water systems to:

  • Monitor the levels of these PFAS
  • Notify the public of PFAS levels
  • Take measures to reduce PFAS levels in drinking water if they surpass the proposed standards.

A final decision on the proposal is anticipated early 2024. For more information, refer to U.S. EPA PFAS web page.

PFAS in Connecticut

In the absence of federal standards, several states have adopted their own action levels. Action Levels are guidelines for drinking water that are protective of public health and also feasible based upon analytical detection and treatment technology. Connecticut’s standards are:

How can PFAS affect my health?

The main health concerns from ingestion of the PFAS compounds for which CT DPH has drinking water Action Levels come from studies in laboratory animals which consistently show effects on the liver and immune system, and on growth, reproduction, and fetal development. PFAS can also affect the endocrine (e.g., thyroid) and hormonal systems and can disturb blood lipids such as cholesterol in lab animals. Studies of human populations exposed to elevated levels of these PFAS generally support the effects seen in animals. Some studies of populations exposed to PFOA have also shown an increased risk for kidney cancer, and at very high exposure levels, for testicular cancer.

If your drinking water has PFAS at levels greater than the CT drinking water Action Levels and you have been drinking the water or using it for cooking for many years, you may have an increased chance of experiencing health problems like the ones mentioned above. However, it is important to understand that consuming water with PFAS levels greater than the Action Levels does not mean that health effects will occur. Action Levels are developed with many health protective safety factors. Also, your level of risk depends on a number of factors including the level of PFAS in the water, how long you have been drinking the water (i.e. exposure duration) and whether you are a member of a sensitive population group. Pregnant people, infants and children are at higher risk because of PFAS effects on pregnancy outcomes and fetal, infant and child growth and development. If you have specific health concerns, you may wish to consult with your health care practitioner.

It is important to note that the water that is currently being supplied by the East Lyme Water Department is in compliance with all State and Federal drinking water standards.

More information on PFAS from the Connecticut Department of Public Health and the EPA are included below.

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