Water Co.: No chemical fears locally

Seeking to counter splashy headlines including locally reported widespread drinking water contamination based on a study out of Harvard University, the Louisville Water Co. on Wednesday tried to assure its more than 850,000 customers that what comes from its treatment plants is safe.


"You may see local media coverage on water quality in the Ohio River Valley," the company posted on its website. "Our water is safe to drink and use."

The study published Aug. 9 in Environmental Science & Technology Letters shouts out like a call to action, particularly to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which moves at a snail's pace when it comes to making Safe Drinking Water Act decisions on newly emerging chemicals of concern.

“Virtually all Americans are exposed to these compounds,” Xindi Hu, the study’s lead author, was quoted as saying in The Washington Post. “They never break down. Once they are released into the environment, they are there.”

This research involves an alphabet soup of chemical names: PFASs, including two types known as PFOA and PFOS and related C8.

And Louisville Water said it was stepping up its monitoring of them starting this fall.

The chemicals have been used the last 60 years in industrial and commercial products ranging from food wrappers to clothing to pots and pans, according to a press release from Harvard, which went on to say: "They have been linked with cancer, hormone disruption, high cholesterol, and obesity. Although several major manufacturers have discontinued the use of some PFASs, the chemicals continue to persist in people and wildlife. Drinking water is one of the main routes through which people can be exposed."

The researchers reported that public water supplies for six million Americans contained unsafe levels of a widely used class of industrial chemicals linked with cancer and other health problems. But they only identified two of those systems in their study: Warminster, Pennsylvania, and Newark, Delaware.

The researchers mapped out areas of the country where there were detections in water supplies, with one map showing a swath of Northern and Central Kentucky. They also identified 13 states that accounted for 75 percent of the detections. Neither Indiana nor Kentucky were mentioned.

That leaves nearly all of those six million people wondering about their drinking water systems.

On Wednesday, I called and wrote the lead author as well as a Harvard University public affairs officer who handled the release of the study. I did not get an immediate answer whether researchers planned to identify any other communities by name and what they found.

Still, the study merits the attention it has been getting.

As Ken Ward Jr. reported in the Charleston Gazette-Mail, who has been covering a concentration of this kind of chemical pollution in West Virginia stepping from a DuPont Teflon plant, researchers warned that another 44.5 million Americans "rely on private wells that generally have not been sampled for these chemicals and another 52 million residents are served by small drinking water systems that are rarely sampled."

Ward writes contamination near Parkersburg has produced verdicts against DuPont "in the first of thousands of pending personal injury cases to go to trial in a federal court in Ohio."

For its part, Louisville Water's Kelley Dearing Smith told me this morning that the company's scientists conducted monitoring for PFOA and PFOS in treated water in 2013, under an EPA requirement.

She said the EPA’s health advisory level - not a regulation -- is 70 parts per trillion and the minimum detection level is 20 ppt.

Louisville Water had two detections of 20 parts per trillion out of eight samples for one type of the chemicals, PFOA, and no detections from eight samples of POFS.

"Because our levels were 20 times lower than the reference level set by the EPA, Louisville Water does not see PFOA as a significant concern for health-related issues," the company said.

The findings were shown in the company's 2014 annual water quality report, which contains 2013 drinking water quality data.

"Louisville Water works closely with the EPA and other national research institutions in conducting studies on both regulated and unregulated substances," Smith said. Starting this fall, the water company intends to do monthly monitoring tests of Ohio River source water as well as treated water for the chemicals.

Source : http://www.courier-journal.com/story/tech/science/watchdog-earth/2016/08/10/water-co-no-chemical-fears-locally/88527936/

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