PFAS Found in Connecticut Water Supplies

PFAS Found in Connecticut Water Supplies

Many towns in Connecticut have reported having potentially dangerous concentrations of PFAS in their water supplies, but what are PFAS and what does this mean for us?

PFAS, also known as Perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, are man-made substances that can be found in many environments. There are thousands of different PFAS types, which can be found in the clothes we wear, the soil we walk on, the air we breathe—and most recently discovered, the water we drink. In small quantities, PFAS don’t pose much of a threat to humans, but they persist for extremely long times, which means that if they keep finding a way into our bodies, they will build up and begin to cause issues. A few possible impacts of long-term PFAS buildup include various cancers, hormone disruption, and increased cholesterol levels.

The main suppliers of water within Connecticut are Aquarion, which services water to Fairfield, and The Connecticut Water Company, which together service about 100 of Connecticut’s 169 towns, further emphasizing how dire this situation is. These two companies have both been aware of the PFAS in the water that they provided for years, and took no action to warn people or treat their water to make it safer to drink. Interestingly enough, Connecticut doesn’t yet have a law regarding PFAS limits in drinking water, though there is talk of introducing one in 2024. This law would ban 10 types of PFAS found in our water, and require that there be less than 4 parts of PFAS per trillion parts of water in order to be safe. These proposed requirements contrast strongly with the current regulations, which tell companies to simply notify customers when there is more than 70 parts of PFAS per trillion parts of water. The proposed threshold is 17.5 times smaller than the old one, which is a massive change, and would additionally require companies to utilize filtration to make sure that it never contains more than 4 parts per trillion.

Many companies are looking into ways to reduce the amount of PFAS in their water. Patrick Kearny, who manages the water in Manchester, says that it will cost his small company roughly 12 million dollars to treat the water accordingly for just one town with a population of nearly 60,000 people. Treating water for PFAS is extremely expensive, which is likely why Aquarion and The Connecticut Water Company didn’t treat their water despite their foresight of the situation. However, many do not condone the ignorance shown by these companies, which was shown last month when various towns within Connecticut began to sue them for knowingly distributing water with PFAS in them. While the companies notified customers of the higher PFAS concentrations, as the current regulations require, the new regulations show just how dangerous these substances are, even below the old threshold.

However, until the new law is passed, and PFAS treatment is taken more seriously, it’s best to filter them out ourselves. An activated carbon filter does a decent job at filtering out PFAS in water, though it’s not the most effective. While it’s much pricier, a reverse-osmosis filter is the most effective way to rid water of these contaminants. Additionally, make sure to replace the filters periodically, as they will become saturated over time, and not only become less effective, but potentially put more PFAS into your water. It’s important to use this filtered water for everything, including boiling, as PFAS are heat resistant, and persist even through boiling. 

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