How to test for PFAS in well water
New Hampshire has the strictest limitation on PFAS contaminants (per and poly fluoroalkyl substances) for drinking water in the country. However, residents with private wells do not have to comply with NH or federal allowable limits of PFAS. Some well water residents aren’t aware of PFAS in their drinking and bathing water. That is why Secondwind’s technicians explain to our customers how to test for PFAS in well water.
PFAS are man-made chemicals
These substances were widely used in products around the world since the mid-’50s. Products include:
- Firefighting foam
- Non-stick cookware
- Food wrappers
- Stain-resistant carpet
- Water-repellent fabrics
Various industries used PFAS chemicals in manufacturing for a wide range of applications as well. Current NH legislation requires local water systems, landfills and wastewater plants to routinely test and treat for four chemicals classified as PFAS.
Exposure to PFAS leads to negative health outcomes in people. When we ingest PFAS through drinking water, chemicals are absorbed and accumulate in the body, and remain there for an extended period of time. If the level of PFAS in the body increases to certain levels, cancer, immune system disorders and thyroid problems are just a few of the possible outcomes.
How to test for PFAS in well water
Testing for PFAS in well water is an in-depth process and is not part of our free water test. The test entails:
- Collecting samples of your well water
- Drop off to our testing partner
- Testing for 25 different compounds
- There is a three to four week lead time
- The test costs $340
The Department of Environmental Services estimates 9% of private wells in NH contain levels of PFAS chemicals above the state’s standards. Secondwind Water recommends that residential well water meet the NH Department of Environmental Services minimum guidelines for these four types of PFAS, which are:
- 12 parts per trillion (ppt) for PFOA
- 15 ppt for PFOS
- 18 ppt for PFHxS
- 11 ppt for PFNA
The emergence of the potential dangers of PFAS in New Hampshire’s water came to the forefront about seven years ago. We immediately researched the most-effective ways for testing for PFAS in well water and treating PFAS in well water. Currently, we recommend these two methods:
Adsorption is the adhesion of atoms or molecules to a surface while absorption is when a fluid permeates a solid. In field studies and residential applications, we find that adsorption onto carbon is one of the best means for removing PFAS. Adsorption occurs when the PFAS chemically bond to the media used in the filter. These filters can be set up in many different sizes and configurations depending upon the level of PFAS and the amount of water for treatment. Adsorption is considered a whole house treatment option.
In field studies and residential applications, we found that adsorption onto carbon is one of the most effective means of removing PFAS. These filters come in many different sizes and configurations depending upon the level of PFAS and the amount of water being treated.
Reverse Osmosis treats water by removing contaminants using pressure to force water molecules through a semipermeable membrane. For point-of-use drinking water applications, we use a smaller adsorption filter in your home, or we use a combination of carbon adsorption and reverse osmosis. A reverse osmosis filtration system also makes your drinking water safe by filtering out lead, nitrates and other impurities.
Homeowners decide whether they plan on treating the whole house water or just the kitchen drinking water. The current health risk is predominantly from ingestion, but some residents prefer whole house treatment for safety. Your technician will help you determine the best option. We’ll look at situations such as:
- How much PFAS is currently in your well water?
- How much water does your family typically use?
- Should we treat for the whole house or just the consumable flow?
- Is iron or manganese present in the water (which might interfere with our treatment method)?
- The presence of radon which might affect the life of a whole house solution
Testing your well water is the only way for determining PFAS contamination. Contact us for more information on how to test for PFAS in well water.