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PFAS Information

PFAS
                





For questions please contact the Water Division at (508) 230-0850.
Last updated 2.28.2020

What are PFAS?
According to EPA, Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a group of man-made chemicals that includes PFOA, PFOS, GenX, and many other chemicals. PFAS have been manufactured and used in a variety of industries around the globe, including in the United States since the 1940s. PFOA and PFOS have been the most extensively produced and studied of these chemicals. Both chemicals are very persistent in the environment and in the human body – meaning they don’t break down and they can accumulate over time. There is evidence that exposure to PFAS can lead to adverse human health effects.

PFAS can be found in:

  • Food packaged in PFAS-containing materials, processed with equipment that used PFAS, or grown in PFAS-contaminated soil or water.
  • Commercial household products, including stain- and water-repellent fabrics, nonstick products (e.g., Teflon), polishes, waxes, paints, cleaning products, and fire-fighting foams (a major source of groundwater contamination at airports and military bases where firefighting training occurs).
  • Workplace, including production facilities or industries (e.g., chrome plating, electronics manufacturing or oil recovery) that use PFAS.
  • Drinking water, typically localized and associated with a specific facility (e.g., manufacturer, landfill, wastewater treatment plant, firefighter training facility).
  • Living organisms, including fish, animals and humans, where PFAS have the ability to build up and persist over time.

Certain PFAS chemicals are no longer manufactured in the United States as a result of phase outs including the PFOA Stewardship Program in which eight major chemical manufacturers agreed to eliminate the use of PFOA and PFOA-related chemicals in their products and as emissions from their facilities. Although PFOA and PFOS are no longer manufactured in the United States, they are still produced internationally and can be imported into the United States in consumer goods such as carpet, leather and apparel, textiles, paper and packaging, coatings, rubber and plastics. 

The DEP adds “Because these chemicals have been used in many consumer products, most people have been exposed to them. While consumer products and food are the largest source of exposure to these chemicals for most people, drinking water can be an additional source of exposure in communities where these chemicals have contaminated water supplies.”

Why is DEP regulating PFAS in drinking water - when will those regulations happen? – see fact sheet

The regulation of PFAS is still an emerging field, however, studies indicate that exposure to sufficiently elevated levels of certain PFAS may cause a variety of health effects. According to DEP, “scientists and regulators are still working to study and better understand the health risks posed by exposures to PFAS, and MassDEP is following developments in this burgeoning area closely.”

DEP started work on a drinking water standard for PFAS in January 2019. On December 27, 2019, DEP issued proposed rules in draft form for public comments. A summary of the proposed PFAS drinking water standard is available here. The DEP anticipates that these rules will go into effect during calendar year 2020. The current draft proposed rules would require mandatory testing for communities the size of Easton beginning in October 2020. However, Easton has already been conducting PFAS testing and we will continue to proactively do so and advance plans for treatment now, rather than waiting.

Shortly after publication of draft PFAS drinking water standards, DEP updated their current Office of Research and Standards Guideline (ORSG) for drinking water in January 2020.

Has Easton tested for PFAS?

Yes. The Easton Water Division has been proactive on PFAS testing. The Town of Easton Water Division tested for PFAS in 2014 as part of the EPA third round of Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule (UCMR3) and found no detectable presence of PFAS. However, UCMR3 was tested on a part-per-billion standard (one part-per billion is the equivalent of one second during the course of 31.7 years), whereas more contemporary testing utilizes a part-per-trillion standard (one part-per-trillion is the equivalent of one second during the course of 31,710 years).

Beginning in 2019, Easton has been testing for PFAS under DEP guidance during the installation of Well 4 (beginning in spring) on the part-per-trillion scale despite the lack of a federal or state drinking water standard requiring such tests. Testing at that time showed PFAS at about 15.6 parts-per-trillion (PPT), which was confirmed with a second test.

Concurrent with the permitting of Well 4, the Town was preparing and the Select Board ultimately executed a contract for a PILOT study for wells 3, 5, and 7 for the treatment of iron and manganese. The Town proactively included testing for PFAS in the study as well to be comprehensive in our testing of this developing area. A third sample of Well 4 reported PFAS at 26.7 PPT in August of 2019. At that time, the DEP and Town began conducting additional testing of wells.

Throughout September, October and November 2019, confirmatory tests were performed on all Easton’s wells. The range of PFAS levels detected at the Town’s seven wells ranged from 0.0 PPT to 51.5 PPT with Well 1 (43.1) and Well 4 (25.1) averaging a PFAS level above 20 PPT. At that time, and at the time of this website’s publication, there did not exist a drinking water standard of 20 PPT and the existing EPA health advisory was (and still is) 70 PPT. The DEP recommended and the Town did publish these results to the Water Division website that November.

Well

Range of PFAS Level Detected (ppt)

Average PFAS Level Detected (ppt)

Well #1

38.7 - 51.1

43.1

Well #2

10.0 – 27.2

16.0

Well #3

5.1 – 11.3

8.2

Well #4

15.6 – 29.7

25.1

Well #5

6.6 – 14.3

11.4

Well #6

0.0

0.0

Well #7

5.4 – 8.0

6.7

 
As the DEP had not, at that time, published any draft PFAS drinking water standard, the Town invited the DEP to attend a Water Commission meeting on November 18, 2019 to give an update to the public on the emerging field of PFAS regulation. Video coverage of that public meeting is available online at this location. At that meeting, the Town announced a rebate program for at-home PFAS water filters for any interested Easton customer. Information on that rebate program is available here.

What does DEP recommend while the drinking water regulation is being finalized?

Based on the current ORSG updated in January 2020, DEP recommends that:

1)  consumers in sensitive subgroups (pregnant women, nursing mothers and infants) minimize exposure by not consuming water when the level of the six PFAS substances, individually or in combination, is above 20 ppt; and,

2)  public water suppliers take steps expeditiously to lower levels of the six PFAS, individually or in combination, to below 20 ppt for all consumers.

What is the town doing in anticipation of the pending drinking water standard and in light of the updated ORSG? 

IMMEDIATE TERM: 
Options available to consumers today

The DEP recommends that consumers in sensitive subgroups minimize exposure by using bottled water that has been tested for PFAS or by using certified at-home PFAS treatment systems (more detail is available on the DEP fact sheet here). To view bottled water companies which have tested for PFAS, visit the DEP page here https://www.mass.gov/doc/bottled-water-tested-for-PFAS

The Town, in November 2019, launched a PFAS home-filter rebate program. Residents can participate in that program and install an NSF certified filter and qualify for a rebate of up to $75 on their water bill. Rebate program information is available here.

MEDIUM TERM 
Responsive and proactive planning for permanent treatment options [6-12 months]

Easton will continue quarterly testing for PFAS and once the regulations take effect Easton would likely be in non-compliance based on our currently known PFAS levels.  Easton is working right now to plan ahead.


The DPW Water Division has requested, and the Town Administrator will program, $100,000.00 of capital funding for the coming Fiscal Year 2021 capital budget (July 1, 2020) to fund a PFAS preparedness engineering study to identify long-term PFAS treatment options. Capital Budget requests are subject to approval by Town Meeting and will be put before voters on May 18, 2020 for their approval. DPW and Town Administration will strongly advocate for this funding.

At the same time, the Town will work with our state partners at the DEP as well as with our elected leaders to advocate for state financial resources to support local costs associated with the forthcoming PFAS drinking standard.

LONG TERM
Financing and construction, if necessary, of public treatment solutions [1 year – permanent]

Once capital funding for the PFAS preparedness engineering study is secured, the DPW will commence the formal planning. Outcomes of the study will be made public and various treatment solutions, including possible water treatment plants / filtration plants, will be presented to the Water Commissioners / Select Board for consideration for future capital funding. DPW currently estimates the cost such a treatment plant at about $10 million, and water rates in Easton would need to be increased to offset that capital cost.


What about Consumer Products, Food, and other Sources of PFAS?

DEP does not have authority to regulate those industries and sources.


Easton Information:

Additional Information: