Fluoride Action Network

Georgia: Drinking water free of PFOA, PFOS, utility says

Source: The Daily Citizen (Dalton, GA) | July 30th, 2009 | By Charles Oliver
Industry type: Perfluorinated chemicals

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has found no perflouroctanoic acid (PFOA) or perflouroctane sulfonate (PFOS) in Dalton Utilities drinking water, says utility president Don Cope.

Cope said Thursday the EPA sampled the utility’s drinking water supply as well as treated samples from all of its treatment plants this spring and found “non-detectable levels” of those chemicals.

EPA officials in Atlanta could not be reached immediately Thursday afternoon.

PFOA and PFOS are related chemicals that have been used in a large variety of industrial processes for decades. They are used to make waterproof clothing and are a byproduct of the process used to make carpet stain resistant.

“The biggest exposure that most of us have directly to them is the bag that you microwave popcorn in,” said Cope.

In January 2009, the EPA created a health advisory standard for PFOA and PFOS. Cope said the advisory levels are four-tenths of one part per billion for PFOA and two-tenths of one part per billion for PFOS.

“A health advisory is just that, an advisory. There is no regulation. There’s no law, no rule, nothing that says anybody has to sample,” Cope said.

The health advisory covered only drinking water.

But Cope said shortly after the agency issued the advisory, it requested records from the utility, and about a month after that it sampled the utility’s drinking water.

“They asked us to sample the compost that we produce from wastewater and the wastewater operations (on the land application system, or LAS), the groundwater on the wells on the site, and the Conasauga River and Holly Creek as it crosses through the wastewater facility,” Cope said.

Officials at the Carpet and Rug Institute did not immediately return a telephone message Thursday afternoon, but last year CRI director of marketing James Beach told The Daily Citizen the industry has been moving away from processes that produce PFOA, and Cope said evidence collected by the utility indicates that is the case.

“What we find is that the influent wastewater, the wastewater coming to us, still has trace amounts in it, but so small that they are way below the health advisory standards. Our groundwater below the LAS has some amounts in it. But none of those are above the amounts already contained in human blood,” Cope said.

The Environmental Working Group, consisting of environmental activists, reports that people have an average of about 5 parts per billion of PFOA in their blood, citing EPA studies.

Cope said the older compost has some PFOA and PFOS in it.

“But as you get closer to today, the numbers go down dramatically. We believe the compost being produced today has levels below the health advisory,” he said. “The new compost has next to nothing in it.”

The EPA sampled the drinking water itself. Dalton Utilities sampled the wastewater and compost under the protocols set out by the laboratories used by the EPA. Those labs did the actual testing.

“We will make all the information we gather available to the EPA for them to assess. We are going to sample the groundwater off the LAS to see if there’s any impact and see if there’s any action we need to take,” Cope said. “We are going to bring the Georgia Department of Natural Resources sustainability division in and have them work with us in concert with the University of Georgia and Georgia Tech to assess our industrial customers and make sure there is no other source coming to us, and further to assess if we need to add something to our treatment process to filter out the residual that might be left in the pipes from when they used that in the past.”

Cope said this will be an ongoing process.

“We are going to have to determine what to do with the compost, how to dispose of that,” he said. “Right now, we are not sending any compost off site until we determine how they (the EPA) want to address the issue.”

For more information on perflouroctanoic acid (PFOA) or perflouroctane sulfonate (PFOS), go to www.epa.gov/oppt/pfoa.