Read the full article by Penelope Overton (Press Herald)
“An aggressive new federal health advisory could complicate Maine’s effort to reduce the amount of forever chemicals in the water supply, making cleanup take longer and cost more.
But at least the state’s remediation campaign seems to be working, the state’s top environmental official said Friday.
The bottled water that Maine is giving to homeowners with contaminated wells and the water coming out of new state-installed home filtration systems have no detectable level of forever chemicals, said Commissioner Melanie Loyzim of the Maine Department of Environmental Protection.
‘There is still a lot more we need from (the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency) to help us understand how the new findings fit into the big scheme of what we’re doing in Maine,’ Loyzim said. ‘On the filtration front, we’ve been shooting for non-detects, and, so far, it is what we are achieving.’
But there is no way to know for sure if that bottled and filtered water is really safe for human consumption because the updated federal advisory issued this week warns that certain forever chemicals pose health risks at amounts too small to be detected by modern testing equipment.
Forever chemicals, or PFAS, are long-lasting chemicals with a unique ability to repel oil, grease and water. They can be found in industrial products like firefighting foam, and many common household items, like stain-resistant carpets or waterproof clothing.
They have been linked to a wide range of health problems ranging from compromised cardiovascular and immune systems, infertility and low birth weight in babies, thyroid problems and certain kinds of cancer. They do not easily break down and build up in the body and ecosystem over time.
Currently, commercial labs can detect about two dozen different kinds of forever chemicals in amounts as low as 2 parts per trillion. The new federal advisory said two forever chemicals are dangerous to people in amounts as small as .004 and .02 parts per trillion.
‘We’re getting the treatment systems working as well as they can, and they’re definitely reducing the health risks, but is it enough to eliminate risk?’ Loyzim said. ‘We just don’t know yet. We can’t know yet because the technology to know doesn’t exist.’
A department spokesman didn’t respond to a request for information about how many PFAS filtration systems Maine has installed to date, or how much it has spent on bottled water. In January, Loyzim said PFAS testing and cleanup will probably cost Maine about $20 million a year.
Loyzim said it is too early to say if Maine will use the new federal advisory to push for a reduction in the state drinking water limit of 20 parts per trillion for a sum of six PFAS chemicals. That is a decision to be made by the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, she said.
It’s hard to predict how the advisory will change demand for PFAS testing, Loyzim said. Maine is already experiencing slow turnaround times. It relies on a single lab in Massachusetts to handle the bulk of its testing of hundreds of farms potentially contaminated by tainted fertilizer.”…