New toxicological profile revises minimum risk levels of compounds in water

New toxicological profile revises minimum risk levels of compounds in water

WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry's recent toxicological profile revises minimum risk levels for four perfluorinated compounds.

On Thursday, the Cape Fear Public Utility Authority released a statement on the report by the ATSDR, which is part of the US Department of Health and Human Services. CFPUA said it will contact the NC Department of Health and Human Services "for guidance on the new levels and their implications for drinking water.

"This is the third version of the report, and each time the report comes out, they continue to lower the levels that are considered to be the minimum risk levels," said Lindsey Hallock, CFPUA Director of Public and Environmental Policy.

The report suggests the following levels:

  • 11 parts per trillion for the compound PFOA
  • 7 ppt for the compounds PFOS
  • 74 ppt for the compound PFHxS
  • 11 ppt for the compound PFNA

Waters samples tested by CFPUA on May 8 at the Sweeney Water Treatment Plant revealed the following numbers:

  • 11 ppt for PFOA
  • 13 ppt for PFOS
  • 4.9 ppt for PFHxS
  • 2.2 ppt for PFNA

In Brunswick County, the most recent test results at the Northwest Water Treatment Plant on May 17 showed the following numbers:

  • 11.8 ppt for PFOA
  • 14.4 ppt for PFOS
  • 4.8 ppt for PFHxS
  • 2.2 ppt for PFNA

GenX, which was released into the Cape Fear River by The Chemours Company at its Bladen County Fayetteville Works plant, was created in 2009 to replace PFOA, commonly called C8 and an ingredient in Teflon.

The Sweeney plant was not designed to remove perfluorinated compounds, but in May 2018, the CFPUA Board of Directors agreed to begin negotiating a design contract to install granulated activated carbon filtering technology at Sweeney. Carbon filtering has been proven effective at reducing perfluorinated compounds in drinking water.

"We've had a year long pilot study at the plant... That work is complete," said CFPUA Executive Director Jim Flechtner. "We are now in the process of negotiating with a design firm to upgrade the plant."

If the construction is approved to begin, the water treatment plant would be upgraded with a new filter process using granular activated carbon.

"That would simply allow these compounds to attach to the filter media which is then replaced and sent out to be processed," said Fletcher. "So it enables us to reduce their levels to very, very low levels in our drinking water."

In the meantime, Flechtner said Chemours' stance on how much GenX can be deemed healthy is at odds with federal regulations.

"Chemours is attempting to influence the State to raise acceptable levels of PFCs in the environment while this federal report suggests they should be lower" Flechtner said. "There needs to be a full understanding of how PFCs affect drinking water and public health before corporations put these pollutants in the River."

CFPUA went on to say that the most effective way to minimize exposure to perfluorinated compounds is controlling their discharge at the source.

CFPUA is also in the process of taking legal action against Chemours after filing a lawsuit.

"The lawsuit has been filed. Now the attorneys are negotiating about who is going to provide what information to whom, and when all that will occur," said Flechtner.

"This expense (to upgrade the water treatment plant) should not be paid by our customers," Flechtner added. "This is why we're taking legal action against Chemours to hold those who are profiting against those discharges accountable and have them pay for the upgrades to the plant, and not our customers."

Brunswick County Director of Health and Human Services David Stanley said county departments depend on recommendations from state and national agencies to set acceptable levels of compounds in drinking water.

"Local health departments across NC rely on the DHHS Public Health doctors and toxicologist to make recommendations concerning public health," Stanley said. "The information in the report needs to be reviewed in conjunction with them to ensure the most comprehensive public health messaging to our citizens."

The Brunswick County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved construction of a reverse osmosis treatment plant in May. Testing for PFOS and PFOA  determined that reverse osmosis removed 45 PFAS to as close to non-detectable limits as possible.

Since the state Department of Environmental Quality began enforcement actions against Chemours, levels of GenX have decreased significantly.

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