John Mack - Newtown Supervisor
Environment Category

PFAS in Drinking Water: The Science Behind Minimum Risk Levels

Drinking water has been identified as a substantial source of PFAS Definition exposure for many populations, particularly those living near contaminated sites, including Newtown Township (read “Perfluorinated Compounds Detected in Newtown Township's Water Supply”).

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) proposed a lifetime health advisory level for PFOS+PFOA Definition of 70 ng/L* in drinking water in 2016.

In 2018, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) in the United States further lowered the Minimum Risk Levels (MRLs) for PFOS and PFOA by approximately an order of magnitude compared to the reference dose (RfD) used by the U.S. EPA to develop the 2016 lifetime advisory.(Ref 1) Drinking water advisory levels corresponding to the MRLs used by ATSDR would be 11 ng/L for PFOA and 7 ng/L for PFOS.

Some lifetime drinking water advisories proposed by other state and international agencies include up to 11 or 12 PFASs (Sweden and Denmark) and range from less than 10 ng/L up to hundreds to thousands of ng/L for different PFASs in Canada.(Ref 2)

Notably, Grandjean and Burdz-Jorgensen(Ref 3) estimated the lifetime drinking water advisory level should be less than 1 ng/L based on the benchmark dose for immunotoxicity associated with PFAS exposure for children in the Faroe Islands.

* X ng/L (nanograms per liter) is equivalent to X ppt (parts per trillion)

References

1. ATSDR. Toxicological Profile for Perfluoroalkyls: Draft for Public Comment, June 2018 Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Atlanta, GA: Available: https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/toxprofiles/tp200.pdf [Accessed: 31 August, 2018], 2018.

2. Health Canada. Health Canada’s Drinking Water Screening Values for Perfluoroalkylated Substances (PFASs). February 2016, Ottawa, ON. Available: http://scottreid.ca/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/Health-Canada-PFAS-Screening-Values-Fact-Sheet-EN.pdf [Accessed: 20 August, 2018]. 2016.

3. Grandjean P, Budtz-Jorgensen E Immunotoxicity of perfluorinated alkylates: calculation of benchmark doses based on serum concentrations in children. Environmental Health 2013; 12: 35.

4. EWG. “The Science on PFAS: Rebuttal to 3M’s Claims” Available: https://www.ewg.org/news-and-analysis/2019/09/science-pfas-rebuttal-3m-s-claims [Accessed: 14 September, 2019]

How Concerned Are You About the Quality of Your Drinking Water?

Please take a few minutes to tell me YOUR opinion of several issues - including drinking water quality - that are of importance to you. After you complete the survey, you will be able to see the summary of results. No comments or other identifying information is included in the summary. Your comments & personal information are confidential and will not be revealed to any 3rd-party.

NOTE: THIS IS NOT A NEWTOWN TOWNSHIP APPROVED SURVEY. IT IS SOLELY A SURVEY POSTED BY JOHN MACK ACTING AS A PRIVATE CITIZEN.

Posted on 11 Oct 2019, 01:50 - Category: Environment

Newtown Township Revises Pollution Reduction Plan After Hearing Resident Comments

At the June 12, 2019, Newtown Board of Supervisors (BOS) meeting, Michele Fountain, the Township Planner, responded to resident comments regarding the proposed Pollution Reduction Plan (PRP). The comments were made at the May 8, 2019 BOS meeting (see the video here and a summary of that meeting here) and submitted by mail and email. The plan is required to meet the requirements of PA Dept of Environmental Protection (DEP) to reduce sediment from flowing into streams and lakes.

This video explains why a plan is needed:

On May 23, 2019, a Bucks County Herald story by reporter Steve Sherman was published with the headline "Residents Want to Dump Meadow Conversion Plan.” This is a particularly misleading headline bordering on "fake news!"

Residents DO NOT want to "dump" the meadow conversion plan, which is the essence of the PRP. Almost all the comments by residents addressed the plan as it applies specifically to Roberts Ridge Park, which is a 22.8 acre park located at Frost Lane and Lower Dolington Road. 

Roberts Ridge Park is a unique COMMUNITY park surrounded by densely populated housing developments. Residents in the area use the open space in the park every day - especially the large area that was ORIGINALLY converted to a meadow WITHOUT any input from local residents. The Township claimed it was only converting "under utilized" park areas to meadows. The residents disputed that claim with regard to Roberts Ridge Park.

As a result of resident input the meadow plan was ALTERED for Roberts Ridge Park as shown in the following aerial view.

The original meadow area is outlined in yellow. The revised area in red.

As a result, we have a better plan and offers of help from environmentalists. 

Ms. Fountain noted that she has done similar work for quite a few other municipalities and "this by far beats any other municipality [regarding] residents' comments on the plan. It's a compliment to Newtown residents and how vested they are in the plan."

All the public comments regarding the Pollution Reduction Plan and the responses by the Township to these comments/questions can be downloaded here.

The Story That Lead to All This

 

Posted on 18 Jun 2019, 01:35 - Category: Environment

Update on PFAS in Newtown's Water Supply

As late as August 2018, Dan Angove, General Manager of the Artesian Water Company (NAWC), reported that PFAS - perfluorinated compounds Definition - in the town's drinking water were at "undetectable" levels (see below).

After NAWC sent a letter to residents in February 2019, that PFAS were detected in Newtown's water, Supervisor Mack requested that Mr. Angove return to report on the situation. Mr. Angove complied and presented the latest Q1 2019 test results at the May 8, 2019, Board of Supervisors public meeting.

At the meeting, Supervisor Mack asked Mr. Angove to explain the results in comparison to the Q4 results focusing on (1) how sampling is done, (2) when was sampling done, (3) were multiple samples collected & combined for the test? (4) what company did the testing, (5) how accurate is the test? What's the margin of error? Residents also asked if the NAWC had set aside money to lower the levels of PFAS if necessary to comply with the Maximum Contamination Levels (MCLs) set by the PA Department of Environmental Protection.

Regarding the letter that NAWC sent to Newtown Township residents:

Dan Angove, Assistant General Manager, Newtown Artesian Water Company, gave a report on Newtown's drinking water at the August 8, 2018, Board of Supervisors meeting. Mr. Angove answered questions from Supervisor John Mack about Maximum Compliance Levels of PFAS - perfluorinated compounds - in the town's drinking water and assured the Township that PFAS were at "undetectable" levels (below 5 ppt) in the Township's water supply.

As shown in the chart below, there are several conflicting standards for what is considered the Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) for these compounds in drinking water and communities are demanding that contaminated wells be shut down even if the water is well below the MCL suggested by the EPA (see Upper Dublin video below the chart).

Posted on 12 May 2019, 01:32 - Category: Environment

John Mack Lists Elcon Pollutants DEP May Allow

On May 11, 2016, Newtown Township adopted Resolution 2016-R-10, opposing the Elcon Toxic Waste incinerator. This is a commercial hazardous waste treatment facility that will treat liquid waste from the chemical and pharmaceutical industries.

That resolution states that the Newtown Township Board of Supervisors “oppose the construction of this facility and further urges the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection Agency and the Falls Township Board of Supervisors to consider the danger of the proposed hazardous 'thermal oxidizer' facility at the Keystone Port Complex in Falls Township to Newtown residents and Delaware Valley residents.”

According to a recent article in The Intelligencer, “for the fourth time in as many years, Elcon Recycling Services is resubmitting application materials in an attempt to build a controversial waste treatment facility in Falls” about 13 miles from Newtown.

Groups such as Bucks POWA [Protect Our Water & Air] and the Delaware Riverkeeper Network say they’re specifically concerned about toxic materials being released to the air and potential drinking water contamination if this incinerator is approved.

On March 4, 2019, I attended a public meeting hosted by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to answer questions from the public. The meeting was jammed packed.

DEP officials reviewed the status of waste management, air quality, and stormwater management permit applications for this facility. There was a lot of chemistry discussed and even though I have advanced degrees in chemistry and biochemistry, it was difficult to follow all the technical details. However, I was surprised to learn the amount of toxic pollutants the proposed permit would allow to be released into the air.

I summarized the amount of pollutants the proposed permit would allow at the March 13, 2019, Board of Supervisors meeting:

Proposed “emission limits” in the recent PA DEP Definition permit application: nitrogen oxides – 23.4 tons per year; carbon monoxide – 36.6 tons per year; sulfur oxides – 24.2 tons per year; volatile organic compounds – 10.1 tons per year; particulate matter – 10.5 tons per year; for hydrochloric acid – 6.3 tons per year!

Note that the 2016 Newtown Resolution opposing this project estimated that “the incinerator treatment process will produce over 39 tons of air emissions” whereas the recent data I just cited adds up to more than 111 tons – or nearly three times as much!

DEP has yet to do an analysis of where these pollutants would be carried by air currents.

Posted on 17 Mar 2019, 10:16 - Category: Environment

PFAS Detected in Newtown Township's Water Supply

By now, Newtown Township, Newtown Borough, and some Middletown residents have received a letter from the Newtown Artesian Water Company (NAWCO) alerting customers that “a recent round of [water source] samples have shown detectable limits” of Perfluorinated Compounds (i.e., PFOS and PFOA Definition) aka PFAS.

Letter I received on February 11, 2019

Previously, at the August 8, 2018, Newtown Board of Supervisors meeting, Dan Angove, the NAWCO’s Assistant General Manager, reported that the levels of these compounds in Newtown’s drinking water was “nondectable”; i.e., below 5 parts per trillion (ppt).

The letter does not mention the exact amounts of these contaminants in recent samples but refers residents to the NAWCO website (www.newtownwater.com) to find the results of measurements. The following chart is based on that data.

NAWCO complies with the PA Department of Environmental Protection’s “safe” level of 70 ppt for these contaminants – the same as the U.S. EPA’s designated Health Advisory Level. This limit has been widely criticized. As reported recently in the Bucks County Courier Times newspaper (here), State Sen. Maria Collett, D-12, of Lower Gwynedd, introduced a bill that would establish a 10 ppt drinking water limit for PFOS, PFOA, and two other chemicals. New Jersey already set a limit of 14 ppt for PFOA and 13 ppt for PFOS. Some scientists call for a limit as low as 1 ppt.

NAWCO says “YES! The water provided by NAWCO is safe to drink and is well below the current U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) health advisory levels for PFOA/PFOS (70 parts per trillion). Both the EPA and Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) consider this level protective of public health.”

Despite declaring the water “safe” by PA DEP standards, the NAWCO – out of an abundance of caution – removed from service two sources of water (wells 14 and 18) “pending further tests.”

One has to wonder, however, if the levels of these contaminants in Newtown’s drinking will increase rather than decrease. The U.S. Navy is investigating the migration paths of PFOA and PFOS in the ground water originating from the Naval Air Station and Horsham Air Guard Station in Willow Grove and former Naval Air Warfare Center in Warminster [see story embedded below]. “(The base) is on an elevated plateau, so water will pretty much discharge in every direction,” a project manager with Navy environmental contractor Battelle said.

Posted on 12 Feb 2019, 01:54 - Category: Environment

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