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PFAS in MA Drinking Water – What You Should Know

By Bill Cooper, Newburyport.Com Correspondent
As President & Co-Founder of Blue Ribbon Water, Bill Cooper utilizes his extensive sales and marketing experience combined with strong knowledge of local municipal water challenges to create an environmentally conscious company that delivers whole house water filtration systems. Blue Ribbon Water’s focus is to deliver “Cleaner, Healthier, Great Tasting Water” (sm) throughout the entire home, restaurant, or business. The company was founded on three simple principles: 1) Be the expert on the water in each town we do business, so our solutions is the best possible. 2) Deliver superior full customer service including installation and scheduled filter changes. 3) Be honest and don’t sell customers what they don’t need. Other water filter companies, or plumbers who do water filters ‘on the side’, lack in all these areas. For instance, many residents are told they need an expensive water softener when they do not. City water rarely needs a water softener. Other companies leave it up to the customer to remember to have their filter changed. Blue Ribbon Water keeps a database of filter changes and automatically alerts the customer. Bill has lived in Newbury with his wife Debra for over 30 years. They raised their two boys here, and Bill was on the Newbury Finance Committee.
Blue Ribbon Water
PFAS in MA Drinking Water, Blue Ribbon Water, Newburyport

PFAS is back in the news again! If you have not immersed yourself in the whole PFOA / PFAS in drinking water topic, now is a great time to dive in. The Boston Globe reported on Sunday May 23 that more towns have tested above the new state legal limit for PFAS6. This blog sets out to address questions about PFAS, who should be concerned and why.

PFAS in Drinking Water: Everything you need to know.

What is PFAS? PFAS is short for Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances. PFAS and its cousin PFOA are highly toxic man-made ‘forever’ chemicals. ‘Forever’, because they do not break down in the environment. PFAS and PFOA are used in manufacturing common consumer products like furniture, carpet, packaging and most famously, Teflon and firefighting foam.

Why is this important? Although most PFAS and PFOA have stopped being produced, the toxic chemicals are still in the environment and have been seeping into the ground and aquafers for decades. We have been exposed to PSAF in varying degrees for years through ingestion of food, water, and manufactured products. Studies indicate that exposure to PFAS increases the risk of cancer, harms the development of the fetus and reduces the effectiveness of vaccines. Biomonitoring studies by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that the blood of nearly all Americans is contaminated with PFAS.”

Is it regulated? Because drinking water is a major source of PFAS ingestion, steps are being taken to tighten regulations on PFAS (I will refer to all forms of PFAS/ PFOA, etc as simply PFAS in this article) in drinking water. Currently, municipalities must ensure that PFAS levels do not exceed 70 parts per trillion (ppt).

One reason PFAS is in the news again is because the Massachusetts DEP published a new set of drinking water quality standards for PFAS-6 (the 6 most concerning variations) last October, and the results are now being published. The new maximum contaminant level (MCL) of 20 ppt (parts per trillion) is more stringent than the current Federal EPA MCL of 70 ppt.

In Massachusetts, cities and towns with water districts greater than 10,000 customers must begin testing and reporting for PFAS6. The testing has exposed over 65 water distribution locations in Massachusetts including Wellesley, Natick, Burlington, Wayland and even at the Old Newbury Golf Club in Newbury.

How do I know if there is PFAS in our water? The state maintains a database of all water test results for PFAS (and dozens of other toxins in our water), that is available to the public. Blue Ribbon Water monitors this database regularly for changes in contaminants. The database is easy to use, and you can download parameters to a spreadsheet. But you can find a consolidated report of all Massachusetts cities and towns on Blue Ribbon Water’s website.

Check your town: www.blueribbonwater.com/

Will water filters take out PFAS?

Yes, there are water filters on the market that reduce PFAS from drinking water. Some (very few) have gone through the stringent process of being certified by the NSF to meet NSF/ANSI 53: Drinking Water Treatment Units – Health Effects or NSF/ANSI 58: Reverse Osmosis Drinking Water Treatment Systems testing standards.

Certification is a lengthy, expensive process that only a handful of manufacturers have pursued. As demand grows however, more and more filters manufacturers will apply for certification. There are some types of filters you can count on, regardless of ‘certification’. NSF/ANSI 53 only certifies a products reduction capability to below the EPA standard of 70ppt. So, there is currently no certification to the new Massachusetts standard of 20ppt.

What to consider:

There are several filter types that DO reduce PFAS very effectively, even if they are not NSF/ANSI 53 certified.

Reverse Osmosis is a very effective type of filter in eliminating almost everything from drinking water (including the good minerals we want). But in areas with extremely high levels of PFAS it is an effective solution.

Whole-house filters. If you are considering a whole-house filter, finding one that is currently NSF/ANSI 53 certified is the best start. There are several that are certified, but most with high quality activated carbon should work well. The trick with whole-house filters is the ‘contact time’ of the water with the carbon. The longer the ‘contact time’ the better, so carbon block filters with extremely tiny pores will have the greatest surface area and longer ‘contact time’. We recommend ½ micron extruded carbon block filters.

Under sink: Very few have been NSF/ANSI 53 certified, but many are extremely effective. Under sink filters with ½ micron carbon block filtration will have long ‘contact time’ and will be your best bet.

Countertop filters like Brita. These small filters will not address PFAS effectively.

Conclusion:

PFAS is an emerging threat to our drinking water. The EPA is so far behind in updating regulations, leaving it to the states to mandate safe levels. The differences from state to state, and the state to the federal government will be with us for some time. As long as there is not one single standard, manufacturers and organizations like the NSF have nothing to go on when certifying products for the public for every state regulation. As a consumer, the best thing to do is ‘something’. If you have concerns about PFAS or other contaminants, and want to do something about it, write your representatives, and purchase the best water purification product you can justify. Doing ‘nothing’ just doesn’t seem the right option.

View more information regarding Blue Ribbon Water if you found this article helpful.

How to Prepare for Hydrant Flushing – Scheduling & Tips

By Bill Cooper, Newburyport.Com Correspondent
As President & Co-Founder of Blue Ribbon Water, Bill Cooper utilizes his extensive sales and marketing experience combined with strong knowledge of local municipal water challenges to create an environmentally conscious company that delivers whole house water filtration systems. Blue Ribbon Water’s focus is to deliver “Cleaner, Healthier, Great Tasting Water” (sm) throughout the entire home, restaurant, or business. The company was founded on three simple principles: 1) Be the expert on the water in each town we do business, so our solutions is the best possible. 2) Deliver superior full customer service including installation and scheduled filter changes. 3) Be honest and don’t sell customers what they don’t need. Other water filter companies, or plumbers who do water filters ‘on the side’, lack in all these areas. For instance, many residents are told they need an expensive water softener when they do not. City water rarely needs a water softener. Other companies leave it up to the customer to remember to have their filter changed. Blue Ribbon Water keeps a database of filter changes and automatically alerts the customer. Bill has lived in Newbury with his wife Debra for over 30 years. They raised their two boys here, and Bill was on the Newbury Finance Committee.
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Hydrant flushing typically occurs twice a year—in the spring and fall. Newburyport is currently in the middle of hydrant flushing right now, and it should wrap up in another few weeks. Why does the city do it? Hydrant flushing is beneficial for the city street water pipes and ensures the safe operation of hydrants. However, the process dislodges buildup in the street pipes that then travel to your home. It’s key to know when your street is being flushed so you can take the proper precautions to protect yourself and your home.

When your street is being flushed, your water turns brown, and particles can become lodged in shower heads and faucets and settle in the bottom of water heaters. If your street is currently flushing, you should avoid drinking water from your faucet—this includes water for your pets. Along with clogging water filters and temporarily contaminating your drinking water, hydrant flushing can also discolor clothing if the water is used to do laundry.

When it’s your streets turn to be flushed, I recommend that all of my Blue Ribbon Water customers change their water filter to bypass mode. If you have a water filter, all of that ‘muck’ will be filtered out, which is good. But filters have tiny, tiny pores that can become clogged as the water passes through it, lowering your water pressure and shortening the life of your filter. We alert all of our Blue Ribbon Water customers when it’s time to change their filter settings to preserve its longevity and to give our customers an advanced warning to plan around hydrant flushing schedules.

So how should you plan for hydrant flushing? The City of Newburyport recommends a few steps that apply to both those with and without a filter.

  • Keep your eye on the city website for what day your neighborhood is being flushed.
  • On that day, limit the use of water and delay doing laundry.
  • Avoid drinking water from a faucet.
  • Do not use hot water, as particles can settle in the bottom, and take longer to clear.
  • We recommend to our customers with filters to put it in ‘bypass’ mode, if available.
  • At the end of flushing, run an outside faucet, or utility sink until the water clears up.
  • Put your water filter back in operation mode.

Newburyport provides a list of streets every morning on their homepage. They do not publish streets in advance, so you do need to check every day.

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