New Hampshire recently adopted the country’s most stringent limits for PFAS chemical contamination in drinking water. Private wells are the source of drinking water for over half of New Hampshire’s residents. The Department of Environmental Services estimates that 9 percent of private wells statewide would be considered out of compliance with the state’s new standards, if they had to follow them.
Here is everything you need to know about PFAS as a private well owner in New Hampshire.
What Are PFAS?
Per and Poly Fluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS)are man-made chemicals used in products worldwide since the mid 50s. 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 as well. New Hampshire hosts a number of these types of companies, particularly in mid-central and southern New Hampshire. Some of these companies are now being held accountable to the contamination of nearby water supplies.
Health Effects of PFAS
Scientific studies show that exposure to PFAS can lead to adverse health outcomes in humans. When humans and animals ingest PFAS through their water, the chemicals are absorbed and can accumulate in the body and remain there for a long time. 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 in these studies. Both chemicals have caused tumors in animal studies. The most consistent findings from human studies are increased cholesterol levels among exposed populations, with more limited findings related to:
- cancer (for PFOA)
- infant birth weights
- adverse effects on the immune system
- thyroid hormone effects (for PFOS)
New PFAS Levels in New Hampshire
Recently, Governor Sununu signed a law with the most restrictive MCLs for PFAS Contaminants (per and poly fluoroalkyl substances) in the US due to their serious health implications. This law requires local water systems, landfills and wastewater plants to routinely test and treat for four chemicals classified as PFAS.
The new limits in New Hampshire are now: 12 parts per trillion for PFOA, 15 ppt for PFOS, 18 ppt for PFHxS and 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. The new limits and associated rules for public water systems, landfills and wastewater plants go into effect on October 1, 2019.
New PFAS Levels and Well Water
As with all private water treatment in New Hampshire, private citizens do not have to comply with state or federal allowable limits. The choice about whether or not to treat the water is completely optional. At Secondwind we usually, (but not always) advise a minimum of treating to meet EPA standards. With more and more research available about the negative health impacts of PFAS, we now recommend meeting the NH Department of Environmental Services minimum guidelines.
Considerations When You Have PFAS in Your Well Water
- How much PFAS is in your water. Make sure you test and find out.
- How much water do you need, and how quickly?
- 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?
- Is pre-treatment required? 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
The emergence of the potential dangers of PFAS in New Hampshire’s water really came to the forefront at the end of 2014 and early 2015. Secondwind sprung immediately into action to begin testing the most efficient and affordable ways to treat water infiltrated by these chemicals.
Now, in 2019, we feel we’ve come up with the best treatment solutions for residential well water customers.
In our field studies and residential applications, we have found that adsorption onto carbon is one of the most effective means of removing PFAS. Adsorption occurs when the PFAS chemically bond to the media uses 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.
Some resins have been shown to be effective against PFAS. We have some available for pilot studies at a reduced cost, but we have not gathered adequate data from our own field experiences to move this to the top of the list for treatment.
For “point of use” drinking water applications, we can use a smaller adsorption filter as above, or use a combination of carbon adsorption and reverse osmosis. Reverse osmosis has the advantage of removing many other contaminants as well.
Homeowners need to make their own decision about whether they desire to treat the whole house water or just the kitchen drinking water. At the levels we are seeing in this area the health risk is believed to be predominantly from ingestion, but some people still prefer whole house treatment for peace of mind.
This 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 lowered the customer’s levels to non-detectable levels.
Secondwind Water Systems Leader In Treating PFAS In New Hampshire
Secondwind applauds the state of New Hampshire for protecting its residents by implementing these stricter drinking water standards for PFAS. The health of our customers is our top priority and we have invested a great deal of resources in finding the best solutions to this statewide and national water quality problem.
Through extensive field experience and ongoing scientific and technical education our Certified Water Specialists and Installation Technicians possess a unique ability to understand the unique complexities of each PFAS site. We will custom design and install the proper water treatment configuration to reduce if not eliminate PFAS contaminated water in the homes of our customers.
Do You Know If You Have PFAS In Your Well Water?
If not, contact us today to set up testing to find out.