You’ve likely seen or read news reports over the last couple years related to PFAS (perfluorooctanoic acid) contamination of water. Exposure to PFAS has been tied to negative health outcomes. When we ingest PFAS through drinking water or other sources, the chemicals accumulate in the body. PFAS in the body have been linked to cancer, immune system disorders and thyroid problems among other health challenges.
Top 5 Things NH Residents Should Know about PFAS and Drinking Water
And How to Filter PFAS Contaminants out of Your Drinking Water
What are PFAS?
PFAS are a group of manmade chemicals that can be present in our water, air, food and in materials found in our homes and workplaces. These compounds, which are resistant to heat, water and oil, have been used in industry and consumer products since the 1940s. Products include but are not limited to:
- Firefighting foam
- Non-stick cookware
- Food wrappers
- Stain-resistant carpet
- Water-repellent fabrics
PFAS chemicals can travel through air or water and end up a long way from the place where they were manufactured or used. For example, PFAS compounds have been detected in Antarctic seals and in polar bears living in remote Arctic areas.
What are the health effects of PFAS?
PFAS are persistent organic pollutants, which means they resist degrading in the environment. As humans can’t easily break them down, the PFAS accumulate in our bodies.
Scientists at the Environmental Protection Agency and in academia and industry continue to research the growing data around the impact of PFAS on humans. Current scientific studies indicate that exposure to PFAS may lead to:
- Liver toxicity
- Immune system changes
- Elevated cholesterol levels
- Kidney, prostate and testicular cancers
- Decline in body’s immune system response
- Decreased fertility
- Increased high blood pressure in pregnant women
- Developmental delays in children
Free Site Evaluation
PFAS have been found in drinking water in multiple locations in New Hampshire
The New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services set up a PFAS Response website that includes an online map indicating where sampling has been done for PFAS throughout the state. New Hampshire currently has the strictest maximum contaminant levels (MCLs) for PFAS in drinking water in the country. Current NH legislation requires local water systems, landfills and wastewater plants to routinely test and treat for four chemicals classified as PFAS: PFOA, PFOS, PFHxS and PFNA.
Private wells are the primary source of drinking water for more than half of New Hampshire residents, but private wells are not required to be tested regularly for PFAS or other contaminants.
How to Test for PFAS in your well water
Although testing for PFAS in well water is relatively straightforward, it does take time to get the results, and requires that the water be sent to a lab for analysis. The comprehensive test entails:
- Collecting samples of your well water
- Overnight shipping to Secondwind’s testing partner
- Testing for 25 different compounds
- Three to four weeks waiting period for results
- A cost of $340
Although Secondwind does charge a $340 fee for the testing of PFAS due to the outside lab requirements, while we are onsite, we can do additional free water testing for other potential issues. Any tests requested that require a lab analysis may include a fee.
The NH DES 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 DES 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
How to Filter PFAS Out of Your Well Water
Currently, we recommend these two methods for treating PFAS:
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 bonds 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 requiring treatment. Adsorption is considered a viable 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 take into account:
- How much PFAS is currently in your well water?
- How much water does your family typically use?
- Should we treat 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
The Secondwind team is familiar with water regions throughout the state and can help you decide if you should test your water for PFAS compounds. From there, we can discuss treatment options so you can feel confident about drinking your water. To speak to one of our water specialists, call us at 603-641-5767, or complete our online form today.
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