Throughout the northeast and across the nation, state and local officials, health departments, and water utilities–including Aquarion—have focused their attention on a group of human-made chemicals called per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).
PFAS are a family of chemicals widely used since the 1950s to manufacture common consumer products, and are also used in firefighting foams. These substances have been detected in drinking waters, including public and private water supplies, bottled water, consumer products, food, and cookware. They have been linked to a variety of health risks, particularly in women who are pregnant or nursing, and in infants.
On October 2, 2020, a new enforceable water quality regulation for PFAS chemicals in public drinking water was established by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (Mass DEP). The regulation provides a stringent Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) water quality standard of 20 parts per trillion (ppt) for the sum of six PFAS chemicals, and also includes monitoring, reporting, and public notification requirements. Drinking water containing a total of 20 ppt or less of the six regulated PFAS chemicals is deemed safe to drink. If drinking water is found to contain more than 20 ppt of these PFAS chemicals, then the water supplier must work with Mass DEP to lower the PFAS level in order to achieve compliance with the standard.
To ensure the highest quality water for our customers, Aquarion voluntarily tested for PFAS chemicals in our water sources in 2019 and 2020. These results are shown below.
Due to the number of water systems sampling for PFAS, and the limited number of laboratories available for testing these compounds, the receipt of results from the laboratory can take upwards of 3 to 4 weeks from the sample date. Sites showing different results for the same date represent the results from different laboratories.
In October 2019, we voluntarily sampled water from all three of our water supply well locations in the Millbury system.
The initial sampling results that we received from our laboratory on October 21, 2019, indicated that the level of PFAS found in our Oak Pond Well exceeded the original Mass DEP guideline of 70 ppt. As a result, Aquarion immediately turned off the Oak Pond Well and consulted with Mass DEP. The Oak Pond well remains out of service until further notice while we investigate alternative supply and treatment solutions.
Sample results from our two other water sources in Millbury (the Jacques Wells and the Millbury Avenue Well) showed levels of PFAS below the Mass DEP guidelines in place at the time and also below the new MCL of 20 ppt. These two water supply sources remain in service.
Aquarion performed additional monitoring in the Millbury distribution system in November 2019 and again in February 2020, to ensure that PFAS levels in our delivered water remained low while the Oak Pond source remained offline. Test results confirm that none of the 6 PFAS compounds covered by the Mass DEP MCL of 20 ppt were present in any of those samples, and that one additional PFAS compound was present at levels below 20 ppt.
In March 2020, we tested source water in the two Jacques Wells and after the treatment systems currently in place at the Jacques facility. This supplemental testing determined that there are low-level PFAS concentrations present in both of the Jacques Wells, and that our ion exchange treatment system is removing PFAS. On March 30, we completed the annual maintenance of our ion exchange treatment system to ensure the highest level of water quality delivered from the Jacques facility. Follow-up sampling in May 2020 confirmed that no PFAS chemicals were detected in the water leaving our treatment facility.
Please refer to the data table below for test results from Millbury source water, treated water, and distribution system water.
In October 2019 and April 2020, we voluntarily performed PFAS testing at our water supply wells in the Oxford system. Test results showed that the levels of PFAS detected were well below the Mass DEP MCL of 20 ppt.