NH wells not regulated for PFAS in water
Private wells are the source of drinking water for more than half of New Hampshire residents, but private wells do not fall under the state’s stringent laws for PFAS in drinking water.
In 2019, Governor Sununu signed into law the country’s most restrictive maximum contaminant levels for PFAS contaminants (per and poly fluoroalkyl substances) due to the serious health implications. The law requires local water systems, landfills and wastewater plants to routinely test and treat for four chemicals classified as PFAS (also known as forever chemicals).
The limits in New Hampshire are:
- 12 parts per trillion (ppt) for PFOA
- 15 ppt for PFOS
- 18 ppt for PFHxS
- 11 ppt for PFNA
This is in stark contrast to the EPA’s advisory limit of 70 parts per trillion for PFOA and PFOS set in 2016.
What are PFAS?
Per and Poly Fluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) are man-made chemicals used in products worldwide since the mid 1950s. These products include firefighting foam, non-stick cookware and water-repellent fabrics. Aerospace, aviation, electronics and automotive industries employed these chemicals for a wide range of applications. New Hampshire has many such companies, particularly in the Lakes region and southern New Hampshire. Some companies are held accountable for the contamination of nearby water supplies.
Health effects of PFAS in drinking water
Scientific studies show that exposure to PFAS can lead to adverse health outcomes. When humans and animals ingest PFAS in drinking water, the chemicals can accumulate in the body and remain there for between two and nine years. If the level of PFAS in the body increases to a certain level, negative health outcomes may result.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, most of the quantitative studies about health effects have been conducted in laboratory animals. High concentrations of PFOA and PFOS caused reproductive and developmental issues, liver and kidney problems, and immunological ramifications. Both chemicals caused tumors in animals. The most consistent findings from human studies are increased cholesterol levels among exposed populations, with more limited findings related to:
- Cancer (PFOA exposure)
- Low infant birth weights
- Adverse effects on the immune system
- Thyroid hormone effects (PFOS exposure)
The NHDES released its latest PFAS in NH water report in June 2021. It shows that water systems still test higher than the state’s limit for PFAS, including schools and medical offices.
PFAS in well water
In August 2021, Gov. Sununu signed three more water protection bills related to PFAS in well water:
- HB 236 allows private property owners to sue polluters if they experience contamination from per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, with a six-month statute of limitations on legal claims.
- HB 235 protects private well owners whose water could be contaminated by setting new rules on small groundwater withdrawals.
- HB 271 directs the NH Department of Environmental Services (NHDES) to establish maximum contaminant limits for PFAS compounds. Grants and loans to local governments will be available to test for and remediate the contaminants.
“There’s no greater faith placed in the government than when you turn on your faucet, fill up a glass and hand it to your kids,” Sununu said.
As with all private water treatment in New Hampshire, private citizens don’t have to comply with state or federal allowable limits;the choice about whether or not to treat the water is completely optional. With more research available about the negative health impacts of PFAS, we recommend meeting the NHDES minimum guidelines.
Considerations for PFAS in well water
- How much PFAS is in your water? We’ll test to find out.
- How much water do you generally use?
- Should we treat the entire service flow of water (whole house), or just the consumable flow (point of use)?
- Is there any iron or manganese that might interfere with our treatment method?
- Do you also have radon which might affect the life of a whole-house approach?
- If iron or manganese are present, we might suggest a water softener or filter. If radon is present, we might use air stripping for that ahead of a whole-house approach to PFAS.
Treating PFAS in well water
Since the dangers of PFAS in New Hampshire’s water came to the forefront around 2015, we sprung into action testing the most efficient and affordable ways to treat water infiltrated by these chemicals.
In our field studies and residential applications, we found adsorption onto carbon is one of the most effective means of 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 to be treated. (Note that adsorption is the adhesion of atoms or molecules to a surface while absorption is when a fluid permeates a solid.)
For “point of use” drinking water applications, we use a smaller adsorption filter or a combination of carbon adsorption and reverse osmosis. Reverse osmosis has the advantage of also removing many other contaminants.
A customer in Hollis, NH had PFAS levels of 102 ppt from their dug well.
- Pre-treatment: Backwashing neutralizer to raise PH and remove solids
- Treatment: LEAD/LAG Granular Activated Carbon Adsorbers with sampling taps
This treatment lowered the customer’s PFAS levels to non-detectable.
Secondwind applauds New Hampshire for protecting its residents by implementing stricter standards for PFAS in drinking water. The health of our customers is our top priority and we have invested a great deal of resources into finding the best solutions to this statewide and national water quality problem.
Through extensive field experience and ongoing scientific and technical education, Secondwind Water technicians possess a unique ability for understanding the unique complexities of each PFAS site. We custom design and install the proper water treatment configuration to reduce, if not eliminate, PFAS contaminated water in the homes of our customers. Contact us today to find out if you have PFAS in your drinking water.