This has been a moving target but has decreased over the last several years. The first testing for PFAs was done by the USEPA as part of their Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule #3 (UCMR3). From 2013-2015, they tested a cross section of public water supplies accross the country to see how common PFAS is in drinking water. Topsfield was selected to participate in the study and both of our sources were tested twice during 2014. No PFAS compounds were detected.
As a result of the UCMR3 tests and emerging scientific evidence, USEPA created a health advisory in 2016 for two chemicals - PFOA & PFOS. The combined total of these compounds shouldn't exceed 70 parts per trillion (ppt). MassDEP announced in January 2019 that they intended to regulate PFAS and published draft regualtions in October of 2019. The proposed regulations went through a typical review process and public comment period and went into effect on October 1, 2020.
The MassDEP regulations limit the combined total of 6 PFAS (PFAS6) to 20 parts per trillion. The PFAS6 include PFOS, PFOA, PFHxS, PFNA, PFHpA, AND PFDA. Four of these chemicals have been detected in our water along with a few others that are unregulated. Some of the tests conducted since the fall of 2019 have found levels higher than 20 ppt. Both EPA and MassDEP have set an ideal goal of having no PFAS in the water.
The reason these chemicals are of concern at such low levels is their durability and potential health effects they may cause. Our bodies don't breakdown these compounds so they can accumulate over time and can potentially reach a point where they can affect your health. Research in this area is continuting but indications are that excessive amounts of PFAS in drinking water may lead to develomental effects in infants and impair the immune system, kidneys, thyroid, and liver. Some studies suggest a potential link to cancer. Research is ongoing and the MassDEP regulations have built in safety factors but it is likely these regulations will change over time. The Maximum Contaminant Level of 20 ppt could go up or down and list of regulated compounds could increase or decrease. EPA may take additional steps and create a national MCL in the coming years.
MassDEP recommends that customers in sensitive subgroups not consume water that contains more than 20 ppt of PFAS6. Click here to view the recommendations.