Read the full article by Adam Wagner (The News & Observer)

“Samples taken in recent years show that unfinished drinking water from dozens of utilities across North Carolina contain concentrations of ‘forever chemicals’ well above the interim health advisory levels set this week by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The N.C. PFAS Testing Network sampled raw water — water that has not passed through a plant’s treatment process — from every municipal or county water system across the state in 2019 and 2020, with the labs capable of detecting PFOA and PFOS at levels as low as one part per trillion. Scientists concluded that samples from 44 utilities contained PFOS above the EPA’s .02 ppt advisory level, while 38 had PFOA above the new .004 ppt level. Many of those samples came from utilities in the Triangle, including Raleigh Water and the Orange Water and Sewer Authority. More recent testing by those utilities and others, including Durham’s Department of Water Management, indicates that drinking water that has been treated also frequently contains concentrations of PFOA and PFOS above the health advisory levels.

Water from those utilities did not contain concentrations above the EPA’s former lifetime health advisory level of a combined 70 ppt of PFOA and PFOS. A lifetime health advisory is meant to provide the amount of a chemical a person can be exposed to for their entire life without it causing adverse health impacts.

PFOA and PFOS are per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) that were used throughout the economy for decades After evidence about the man-made chemicals’ impact on human health began to mount in the 1990s and early 2000s, the EPA worked with manufacturers to largely phase them out. But the chemicals are long-lasting and move easily in water, meaning they are frequently found in water supplies today. The EPA’s new limits are so low that it’s impossible for Lee Ferguson, a Duke University environmental analytical chemist who is one of the co-leaders of the testing network’s sampling effort, to say how many samples contain concentrations of PFOA or PFOS that the federal government considers dangerous over a lifetime of exposure. Ferguson’s lab can find the chemicals at concentrations as low as one part per trillion, but the EPA’s health advisories are .02 ppt for PFOA and .004 ppt for PFOS. ‘Essentially anything that can be measured using current technology in water — any detection — is considered to be a risk with respect to health exposure over the long term,’ Ferguson said.

PFAS in Triangle Drinking Water

Some utilities, including several in the Triangle, routinely test for PFAS chemicals in their treated drinking water. Those tests frequently show that the water supplied to customers contains levels that are well above the new EPA recommendations. For instance, Raleigh Water’s most recent samples, collected in January, show that water from Falls Lake treated at the E.M. Johnson Water Treatment Plant contained 5.1 ppt of PFOS and 3.4 ppt of PFOA. Drinking water from Lake Benson that was treated at Raleigh’s Dempsey E. Benton Water Treatment Plant had 3.3 ppt of PFOS and 2.3 of PFOA. Edward Buchan a Raleigh Water spokesman, said the agency is reviewing the new health advisories.

‘Raleigh Water is in full compliance with all NC drinking water requirements and EPA’s Safe Drinking Water Act, and we will continue to work with our industry partners and regulatory agencies to ensure our drinking water meets all current and future regulations,’ Buchan wrote in a statement. The City of Durham’s Water Management Department acknowledged in a press release Thursday that its drinking water contains PFOA and PFOS above the advisory levels.”…