technology profile - clean water
My H2O Woes
More benefits of water purification and usage-monitoring solutions.
By STEVE PANOSIAN
WATER IS LIFE, the article I wrote a year ago, was the first in a series that focused on the benefits of water purification and water usage-monitoring solutions. The importance of water quality for any new construction or restoration is equally important as healthy indoor air. Water filtration technologies are designed to eliminate water sediments, various minerals, plastics and high health risk contaminants. Researching this topic enlightened me on the importance of replacing only the best quality POUT (point of use treatment) filter under the sink or refrigerator filters in our home. Ideally, a POET (point of entry treatment) whole home filtration system would be the best and healthiest way to go for any home.
This article shares my personal eye-opening experience involving the safety of our home’s private well water source. Funny how a year of lockdown ‘gets the gears turning’ on virtually any subject about health these days. My home’s private well has served us for over 20 years without any problems and the only treatment we considered was adding a water softener to curb a harmless level of iron.
The Northeast New Jersey town we call home is set in the Ramapo Mountains and the Ramapo River runs through the North side of our property. We have always enjoyed the beautiful seasonal scenery, a host of wildlife including trout fishing on the property, but it’s the sound of the wind through the trees and flowing river that tops off our peaceful country living. Hard to imagine all this and we are only an hour train ride into Manhattan.
In early November, this past year, things changed rather quickly upon reading a letter addressed to all residents in our town. The subject in bold letters: "IMPORTANT INFORMATION ABOUT YOUR DRINKING WATER"
the eye-opening H2O woes
In early November this past year, things changed rather quickly upon reading a letter addressed to all residents in our town. The subject in bold letters: “IMPORTANT INFORMATION ABOUT YOUR DRINKING WATER”, explained that a routine well water system test was found to have levels of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) above the N.J. drinking water standard. Because our home is situated about 300 feet from one of the town’s wells, it was apparent that our home’s private well most likely draws from the same aquifer and possibly contains some of the same contaminants mentioned in the letter from our water department.
The town took immediate action beginning with hosting a Zoom call presentation conducted by the town’s Boswell Engineering firm that serve as our Water and Sewer Engineers. Present on the call was our town’s mayor, the city council, and the water department. The presentation was very informative, comprehensive, and there were many questions about the origin of the contaminants, the health impact, filtration remedies and the cost impact on our water bills. Apparently, these two chemicals found in our town’s water that exceed the N.J. State standards are part of a group of chemicals called per and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).
PFAS group of chemicals
The two leading PFAS group of chemicals N.J. and other states are most concerned about are Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and Perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS). The state has a very strict guideline on what is considered safe. We’re talking about 13 and 14 parts per trillion MCL (maximum contamination level) for these two chemicals. While other states may have a different MCL standard, interesting is the Federal MCL standard is higher at 70 parts per trillion for public drinking water. This amount equates to about a drop of water vs. the amount of water in 20 Olympic swimming pools.
so what are these chemicals?
Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) is a processing aid in the manufacture of fluoropolymers used in non-stick cookware and other products, as well as other commercial and industrial uses, based on its resistance to harsh chemicals and high temperatures. PFOA has also been used in aqueous film-forming foams for firefighting and training, and it is found in consumer products such as stain-resistant coatings for upholstery and carpets, water-resistant outdoor clothing and greaseproof food packaging. Major sources of PFOA in drinking water include discharge from industrial facilities where it was made or used and the release of aqueous film-forming foam. Although the use of PFOA has decreased substantially over the years, contamination is expected to continue indefinitely because it is extremely persistent in the environment and is soluble and mobile in water.
Perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) are man-made and used in industrial and commercial applications. It is used in metal plating and finishing as well as in various commercial products. Major sources of PFOS in drinking water is not much different than PFOA chemicals and the contamination is also expected to continue to exist in the environment.
what are the health concerns?
People who drink water containing PFOA more than the MCL over time could experience problems with their blood serum cholesterol levels, liver, kidney, immune system, or, in males, the reproductive system. Drinking water containing PFOA more than the MCL over time may also increase the risk of testicular and kidney cancer. For females, drinking water containing PFOA more than the MCL over time may cause developmental delays in a fetus and/or an infant. Some of these developmental effects may persist through childhood.
studies, findings, and the EPA
DUKE UNIVERSITY STUDY: DO REFRIGERATOR WATER FILTERS REMOVE PFAS?
According to a Duke University study, "Most carbon filters in pitchers, refrigerators and whole house filtering systems do not remove PFAS and some even make them worse." February 28, 2020. Since the Duke University study findings on POUT filtration, the N.J. DEP provides updates on certified solutions including counter top dispenser filtration.
Teflon is a PFAS. In 1946, Teflon was introduced to the world. Today, the family of compounds including Teflon, commonly called PFAS, is found not only in pots and pans but also in the blood of people around the world, including 99 percent of Americans.
The EPA reports PFAS are widely used, long lasting chemicals, components of which break down very slowly over time. Because of their widespread use and their persistence in the environment, many PFAS are found in the blood of people and animals all over the world and are present at low levels in a variety of food products and in the environment. They are found in water, air, fish and soil at locations across the nation and the globe. Scientific studies have shown that exposure to some PFAS in the environment may be linked to harmful health effects in humans and animals. They are found in many different consumer, commercial and industrial products that make it challenging to study and assess the potential human health and environmental risks.
what action is required?
In our town’s case and for those with private wells, water tests that are above the MCL guidelines must have installed a water treatment system certified to reduce levels of PFOA contaminants. In the interim of installing a water filtration system, it is strongly suggested to use bottled water for drinking and cooking. The New Jersey Department of Health suggests that anyone with underlying health concerns, severely compromised immune system, pregnant women, and others at risk should seek advice from their health care providers about drinking the water.
In speaking with our town’s engineering firm, Boswell Engineering, they suggest one of two filtration options. The technologies are Reverse Osmosis (RO) and Granular Activated Carbon (GAC). Boswell Engineering also mentioned a third technology that can also be used for public drinking water systems to remove PFOA and PFOS. It is an Ion Exchange system that utilizes a resin media to accomplish the treatment. These technologies are also suitable for an entire home either at the Point of Entry Treatment (POET) or at the Point of Use Treatment (POUT). Regardless of the technologies chosen, each must be certified to meet either NSF 53 or NSF P473 standards and must be installed, operated and maintained properly.
For our town’s water filtration solution, Boswell Engineering will consult with Calgon Carbon Corporation for the design, purchase and installation of the public drinking water treatment system. The town’s decision will factor the sustainability aspect of operating and maintaining the system. There are options in selecting a filter solution that can be reused to both reduce costs and help eliminate the environmental impact of disposing used media.
N.J.’s spill compensation fund (spill fund)
For addressing the possible PFAS contamination of my home’s well water, I am working with John P. McGowan, President of McGowan Well Water Compliance Mgt, LLC. John explained that the state of N.J. will reimburse homeowners with a private well for a POET filtration system if the PFOA and PFOS levels are above the MCL standard.
Besides the health concerns, this is especially important to those selling their homes because effective December 1, 2021, a new N.J. law requires a water test for private wells and any sale of a home will require a passing test before a Certificate of Occupancy can be issued. N.J. sellers will be eligible for a reimbursement of the costs of a treatment installation if they submit a Spill Fund Claim Form prior to closing.
I asked John a few questions about the N.J. Spill Fund reimbursement process.
STEVE: Does the water test for PFAS contaminant levels determine the system choices, and is there more than one choice of filtration system?
JOHN: The New Jersey Spill Fund has a specification for whole house treatment. Once the results are concluded, we will provide the spec.
STEVE: My well water does have higher iron; will a pre-filtration stage need to be part of the design?
JOHN: If your iron level is one PPM or higher the Spill Fund will include a water softener. If not, you can purchase a water softener stage and have it installed at the same time the PFAS system is installed.
STEVE: If my test fails, how long will the N.J. Spill Fund be available? And looking down the road, do you think the PFAS contamination will increase through time?
JOHN: The Spill Fund claim can be submitted up to one year after your first failure. Unfortunately, we have no idea how long the contamination will be around since we have no idea of the source.
Regardless of the results of our water test date, I am confident that we’ll be drinking safe, clean, refreshing H2O and without the woes.