PFOA & PFOS Most Tested of PFAS Chemicals in Fallbrook Water Supply
According to the Metropolitan Water District (MWD), which supplies most of the water to Fallbrook and surrounding areas, there are more than 7,800 chemical varieties of PFAS chemicals (Perfluorooctanesulfonates). The two oldest and therefore more studied are PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid) and PFOS (perfluorooctane sulfonic acid).
They have been linked to cancers, endocrine disorders such as thyroid disease, liver, reproductive, and immune disorders.
These PFOA and PFOS chemicals along with a handfull of other PFAS chemicals are the only ones that can be tested for in our water supply because scientists have yet to devise ways to test for all of them.
PFAS Linked to Cancer, Liver, Endocrine Diseases, Other Health Disorders
As a result of news coverage of health consequences, most of the original PFOA and PFOS chemicals are no longer manufactured in the United States. However, they are still used in most fire-fighting foams, especially around airports and military bases. And the 7,800 chemical cousins of PFOA and PFOS are still used in multitudes of consumer products, from food wrappers to furniture.
More Than 7,800 PFAS Chemicals – Tests Currently for Only 29 – 45 in Fallbrook Water
Out of the estimated 7,800 PFAS chemical varieties the MWD’s website states “Current science allows for the detection of 45 different kinds of PFAS.”
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has so far validated tests for only 29 PFAS, however.
So whether testing is currently conducted on 29 or 45 PFAS chemicals, we cannot know how many of the other thousands of PFAS chemicals may be in our water supply. In fact, the EPA is still working on an “Action Plan” for PFAS chemicals that can be tested for in water supplies.
According to FPUD Fallbrook Water Tests Show no PFOA or PFOS
The Fallbrook Public Utility District (FPUD) does not include information on its website about testing for PFAS chemicals. Their website does not mention how, when or which specific PFAS chemicals are tested for. And no data for PFAS chemicals is included in the yearly “Consumer Confidence Report“. When asked why this information is missing from the report, FPUD Public Affairs representative Noëlle Denke, responded: “If the results come back as None Detected (ND), it is not a requirement to include them in the report.”
Denke added that FPUD sampled for PFOS and PFOA during the Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule, as required by the EPA known as known as UCMR 3. It required monitoring for 30 contaminants, including PFOA & PFOS, between 2013 and 2015 using analytical methods developed by EPA.
“At that time, no results were detected for us as well during this test,” Denke added. “This test was for only a small group of analytes of PFAS.”
In fact, it appears that the test results included only the two legacy PFAS: PFOA and PFOS.
UCMR Test Report Reveals .02 PFOA and .04 ppt PFOS in Fallbrook Water
The California Water Board’s website, however, contains a downloadable spreadsheet of UCMR test results for PFOA and PFOS for every California city’s water supplies.
Testing between 2013 and 2015 showed .02 ppt (parts per trillion) of PFOA and .04 ppt for PFOS in Fallbrook’s water supplies. You will find specific dates and locations of each snapshot measurements at the end of this article.
One of Highest Levels of PFAS Found in Well on Camp Pendleton
A few miles from Fallbrook, a Camp Pendleton well was shut down in 2017 after testing revealed 820.8 ppt (parts per trillion) of PFAS. More recent testing in 2019 by the California Water Board showed 13 wells in Camp Pendleton contaminated by PFAS chemicals. The average was 48 ppt. The wells serve nearly 40,000 people.
Controversy Over “Safe” Levels of PFAS in Drinking Water
According to the EPA, even very low doses of PFAS have been linked to cancers, thyroid disease immune function and other health disorders. Yet, the EPA’s health “advisory response level” remains at 70 ppt.
On February 6, 2020, the California Water Board updated its drinking water response level to 10 ppt for PFOA and 40 ppt for PFOS.
According the the Environmental Working Group (EWG), an independent, non-profit environmental watch group, those levels are “hundreds or thousands of times too week”. Instead, they endorse 1 ppt which is what they say is the same as what is recommended by the best independent studies of PFAS.
How to Remove Possible PFAS Contaminates in Water?
Boiling doesn’t work. That’s because PFAS chemicals were specifically designed to resist heat.
And we can’t rely on pitcher filters or refrigerator filters either.
Point-of-Use Carbon Filters Do Not Remove PFAS Chemicals
Many people use filtered water believing these point-of-use filters, such as those on refrigerators and water pitchers, protect them from harmful chemicals such as PFAS. But a study released in early February 2020 by Duke University disproves that notion.
According to the Duke University study, “Most carbon filters in pitchers, refrigerators and whole house filtering systems do not remove PFAS and some even make them worse.”
Best Way to Eliminate PFAS Chemicals from Water is Reverse Osmosis According to Duke University Study
“All of the under-sink reverse osmosis and two-stage filters achieved near-complete removal of the PFAS chemicals we were testing for,” Heather Stapleton, Professor of Environmental Health at Duke University said. “In contrast, the effectiveness of activated-carbon filters used in many pitcher, countertop, refrigerator and faucet-mounted styles was inconsistent and unpredictable. The whole-house systems were also widely variable and in some cases actually increased PFAS levels in the water.”
The Duke University study tested for 17 specific PFAS chemicals. The Metropolitan Water Board which supplies most of Fallbrook’s water estimates there are more than 7,800 PFAS chemicals. So the study could only measure for a tiny fraction of PFAS chemicals.
Still, knowing that Reverse Osmosis is the best way to eliminate the PFAS chemicals that can be measured, we assume it is also the best way to eliminate the chemicals which cannot yet be scientifically measured.
Scientists Call PFAS “Forever Chemicals”
Scientists call PFAS “forever chemicals” because most of them never break down in the environment or in our bodies. In fact, most continue to accumulate with each exposure.
PFAS chemicals were developed over 50 years ago and used initially for non-stick surfaces and fabric coatings. Since then, PFAS chemicals have been used in a multitude of consumer products to resist heat, stains, oil, grease and water. They’re in consumer products such as pizza boxes, fast-food wrappers to furniture.
PFAS Even Found in Rainwater
A research team at the National Atmospheric Deposition Program collected 37 rainwater samples from 30 sites during the spring and summer of 2019 and found PFAS chemicals. They found each sample contained at least one of as many of 36 different PFAS chemicals they could test for. The principal researcher Martin Shafer suspects the chemicals are getting into rain from industrial emissions and evaporation from PFAS fire-fighting foams, especially those still used around airports and military bases.
Studies of Newer PFAS chemicals May Be Even More Dangerous to Health
Newer PFAS chemicals that replaced most PFOS and PFAS chemicals were, at first, thought to be less hazardous to the environment and to our health.
However, most scientists now agree with Auburn University researchers’ findings published in Chemical Engineering that the newer short-chain versions of PFAS chemicals are:
“more widely detected, more persistent and mobile in aquatic systems, and thus may pose more risks on the human and ecosystem health” “This new analysis reviewed more than 200 individual studies and showed that short-chain PFAS compounds can present a real problem for community water systems’ efforts to provide safe drinking water to the public.”
The Environmental Working Group (EWG), a non-profit watch organization, believes newer PFAS chemicals meant to replace older PFOS and PFAS “may pose more risk than those they meant to replace”.
“This new analysis reviewed more than 200 individual studies and showed that short-chain PFAS compounds can present a real problem for community water systems’ efforts to provide safe drinking water to the public”EWG’s vice president for science investigations Olga Naidenko, Ph.D.
States Demanding EPA Implement an Action Plan for PFAS Contamination in Drinking Water
A February 13, 2020 letter to the EPA signed by our California Senator Diane Feinstein along with other representatives asks for an updated timeline on the EPA’s “PFAS Action Plan”. The letter states:
“The prevalence of PFAS in drinking water sources across the country and the potential serious health impacts associated with chronic exposure to these chemicals demand moving forward with sound regulations for drinking water.”
“The health and environmental threats posed by PFAS are significant. Communities across America demand that the EPA help protect them from PFAS exposure. They deserve the confidence that their water is safe and free of harmful levels of PFAS contamination.”
EPA Proposes to Regulate Two PFAS Contaminates in “Action Plan”
On February 20, 2020 the EPA issued a news relates proposing to regulate two contaminants, PFOS and PFOA, which is included in the “Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule.”
Responding to the EPA’s news, EWG Legislative Attorney Melanie Benesh “EPA has wasted decades deciding whether to regulate PFAS and they could take many more years before a drinking water standard is finalized. … But today’s decision shows that an avalanche of public pressure and overwhelming science is finally forcing EPA to act.”
PFAS Chemicals Not the Only “Emerging Contaminates” in Water Supplies
FPUD’s Denke added: “Along with the growing concerns with PFAS, we foresee more testing being required by the EPA and the Division of Drinking water here in California in the near future. We support this and will be doing testing required as our top priority is our commitment to a safe water supply.”
PFOA & PFOS Test Results for 2013 – 2015 for Fallbrook Water Sources
The only publicly available tests specifically for PFOA & PFOS in Fallbrook and neighboring cities come as a result of the EPA’s Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule known as UCMR 3. It required monitoring for 30 contaminants, including PFOA & PFOS, between 2013 and 2015 using analytical methods developed by EPA. The results of those tests showed Fallbrook’s water measurements for PFOA as .02 and for PFOS at .04.
This is a synopsis of data derived from a downloadable spreadsheet at the California Water Board website. It includes specific dates and locations of each water source for Fallbrook water.
|Fallbrook PUD||Red Mountain Blended – No. 10||Capra and SDCWA Blend||5/5/15||PFOA||0.02|
|Fallbrook PUD||Red Mountain Blended – No. 10||Capra and SDCWA Blend||8/4/15||PFOA||0.02|
|Fallbrook PUD||Red Mountain Blended – No. 10||Capra and SDCWA Blend||2/3/15||PFOA||0.02|
|Fallbrook PUD||SDCWA Intertie – FB-6||EPTDS from SDCWA||5/5/15||PFOA||0.02|
|Fallbrook PUD||SDCWA Intertie – FB-6||EPTDS from SDCWA||11/3/14||PFOA||0.02|
|Fallbrook PUD||Red Mountain Blended – No. 10||Capra and SDCWA Blend||11/3/14||PFOA||0.02|
|Fallbrook PUD||SDCWA Intertie – FB-6||EPTDS from SDCWA||8/4/15||PFOA||0.02|
|Fallbrook PUD||SDCWA Intertie – FB-6||EPTDS from SDCWA||2/3/15||PFOA||0.02|
|Fallbrook PUD||Red Mountain Blended – No. 10||Capra and SDCWA Blend||8/4/15||PFOS||0.04|
|Fallbrook PUD||Red Mountain Blended – No. 10||Capra and SDCWA Blend||5/5/15||PFOS||0.04|
|Fallbrook PUD||Red Mountain Blended – No. 10||Capra and SDCWA Blend||2/3/15||PFOS||0.04|
|Fallbrook PUD||SDCWA Intertie – FB-6||EPTDS from SDCWA||5/5/15||PFOS||0.04|
|Fallbrook PUD||SDCWA Intertie – FB-6||EPTDS from SDCWA||11/3/14||PFOS||0.04|
|Fallbrook PUD||Red Mountain Blended – No. 10||Capra and SDCWA Blend||11/3/14||PFOS||0.04|
|Fallbrook PUD||SDCWA Intertie – FB-6||EPTDS from SDCWA||8/4/15||PFOS||0.04|
|Fallbrook PUD||SDCWA Intertie – FB-6||EPTDS from SDCWA||2/3/15||PFOS||0.04|
Changes to EPA regulations for monitoring and reporting water quality come primarily through pressure from state representatives.
U.S. Senator for California Diane Feinstein