Officials: Cumberland water not contaminated

Officials: Cumberland water not contaminated

CUMBERLAND – Suggestions that Cumberland has an issue with contaminated water are anything but accurate, say state and local officials, who are rejecting conclusions of a widely circulated report from the national Environmental Working Group.

One theory on how Cumberland made it into the report is that a small amount of material used by plumbers might have gotten into the local water system during pipe repairs in 2015.

Cumberland Water Department Supt. Chris Champi emphasized that a 2015 test showing 81 parts per trillion of toxic fluorinated compounds, or PFAS, in one well off Abbott Valley Run Road (Abbott Well #3), came in well below the maximum standard at the time of 400 parts per trillion.

Repeated testing of the same well since early 2016 has shown results between 18 parts per trillion and 25 parts per trillion, Champi told The Valley Breeze, well below the current standard of 70 parts per trillion.

Abbott Well #3 is one of five active groundwater wells, as well as a surface water treatment plant and outside water purchases, that make up a Cumberland Water Department system serving roughly 23,500 customers through 8,300 water service connections north of Marshall Avenue.

Over the last five years, Abbott Well #3 has been responsible for a relatively small portion of water supply to CWD’s customers, said Champi. On average, the well produces 215,000 gallons per day, which equates to an average of 9.5 percent of all the water supplied by CWD annually. The water supplied from the well is blended with water supplied from other sources of supply upon entry to the distribution system.

Numbers for Cumberland’s water system were some of the few reported on accurately by the Environmental Working Group, said Joseph Wendelken, spokesman for the Rhode Island Department of Health. In most cases cited by the EWG in a report last week, the group combined test results at multiple wells to come up with its conclusions. He compared that to testing one glass of water and finding three parts per trillion, testing another and finding three parts per trillion, and coming up with a combined number of six parts per trillion.

Though Cumberland’s tested numbers for PFAS in 2015 were accurate, said Wendelken, the 81 parts per trillion were far below the standard at the time of 400 parts per trillion, and as that maximum standard was lowered to 70 percent, the levels of PFAS in Cumberland water also dropped precipitously.

According to the EWG, at least 610 locations in 43 states are now known to be affected by the PFAS as of March 2019, including Cumberland and 11 other spots in Rhode Island. EWS is proposing cleanup standards of one part per trillion for PFAS.

PFAS are a group of chemicals found in many household products and in certain types of firefighting equipment, said Wendelken. The RIDOH has been doing a lot of testing for PFAS. As of testing in 2017, only one small water system, the Oakland system in Burrillville, was testing higher than 70 parts per trillion, he said, and customers on that system are transitioning onto municipal water.

The state is doing follow-up testing at another 50 smaller water systems near potential sources of PFAS, conducting a third round of testing right now.

“None of the testing we’ve done for PFAS has show concern beyond that one system in Burrillville,” he said.

According to Champi, Cumberland tested for a large range of unregulated substances as required in 2015. Sampling was conducted for perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) at four sources of supply during that year, with a total of seven samples taken.

“PFOA was detected in a single sample taken in February of 2015 at Abbott Well #3 at 81 parts per trillion. All other samples taken were absent of PFOA,” he said.
Once the substance was detected, RIDOH requested that the CWD begin quarterly monitoring for PFOA at the well site in 2016.

“CWD agreed to sample quarterly for the substance and noted that plumbing work had been performed on the sample line the PFOA positive sample had been taken,” said Champi. “PFOA is commonly referred to as teflon, which is a main component in pipe joint compounds and plumber’s tape.”

The EWG report describes PFOA as “the most notorious” of PFAS.

The first quarterly sample for PFOA was taken in March of 2016. CWD took matched samples, two samples drawn from the same tap at the same time, to ensure that results were identical, said Champi. The samples taken were positive for PFOA, but at 24 and 25 parts per trillion.

“The sample results showed a substantial drop in the level of PFOA from the sample taken 11 months prior,” he said.

CWD has continued to take quarterly samples for PFOA at the well and results have ranged between 25 parts per trillion and 18 parts per trillion over the last three years,” said Champi. “It is possible that the higher level of PFOA detected in the 2015 sample was due to the plumbing work which was performed on the sample line; however, there were no other samples taken in 2015 other than the single (sample).”

CWD will continue quarterly monitoring for PFOA to ensure that levels “continue to show a stable or downward trend,” he said.

All of the quarterly samples taken between 2016 and now have been below EPA’s new standard of 70 parts per trillion, which took effect in May of 2016, said Champi.
The EPA’s current advisory limit is set to levels that the agency has concluded will not result in adverse health effects to the most sensitive populations, including fetuses during pregnancy and breast-fed infants, he said.

According to RIDOH, “If people ingest PFAS, the PFAS are absorbed and can accumulate in the body. PFAS can be found in blood, and at much lower levels in urine, breast milk and in umbilical cord blood. PFAS stay in the human body for long periods of time. As a result, as people get exposed to PFAS from different sources over time, the level of PFAS in their bodies may lead to adverse health effects. The likelihood of adverse health effects depends on several factors such as the amount and concentration of PFAS ingested as well as the time span of exposure.”

Comments

After having chocolate water for 3 days every near now during flushing season, and being told the water is safe to drink, the CWD is not to be trusted.
We asked them to come flush the hydrant out front but they did not as is typical because denial is the new fake honesty.
Chocolate water is not safe to drink, and who knows what is lurking in that sediment. Next year I am going to save it and have it tested for contaminants.