PFAS Water Contamination in New England

Connecticut’s Farmington River sparked an important conversation after a toxic firefighting foam spill. Filled with PFAS, a chemical under scrutiny as we learn more about its long-term effects, the foam contaminated the water of towns all around the river. And PFAS in Connecticut aren’t the only concern New England residents have as more and more communities test positive for PFAS-contaminated water.

From Maine to Massachusetts, PFAS contaminants have shown up in varying levels of concentration in the drinking water.  While officials work to understand the depth and breadth of the water contamination problem, many residents are left wondering what to expect and what they can do to access safe, high-quality drinking water.

What are PFAS?

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS, PFOAS, & PFOS) were engineered and became common in the 1940s because of their water, grease, and heat-resistant properties.  This lead to the creation of non-stick products like Teflon-coated pans, fire retardants like those found in flame-resistant carpeting, and other common consumer goods from waterproof rain gear to food packaging. What wasn’t understood was that PFAS Teflon and other PFAS products would resist decay in nature and the human body.

Because of their chemical engineering, any PFAS absorbed into our bodies, through eating or drinking, stays in our bodies — earning them the dubious nickname ‘forever chemicals.’ Most PFAS use has been discontinued in this country, but they were used so much they remain prevalent in the environment, and our water supply. Regulation has also been slow to catch up with New England-area PFAS contamination, so what may be allowed in some Vermont counties as far as safe PFAS levels in drinking water, may be different in Massachusetts, which may be different again from other neighboring communities.

Another major problem with PFAS, and their chemically-related cousins, PFOS, is that, until recently, few people knew or understood what they are. Making things worse, these widely-adopted PFAS can be found just about everywhere. From pizza boxes to rain jackets, carpeting to cookware — it’s so common for PFAS to be part of consumer goods that nearly 98% of us have some level of PFAS in our bodies.

Do I Have PFAS-Contaminated Water?

It’s normal for the water supply near manufacturing and food packaging centers, airports, dry cleaners, and firefighter training facilities to contain elevated levels of PFAS, as all of these industries once relied heavily on PFAS chemicals. Wherever PFAS have been, there’s a good chance they remain, whether that’s in the soil or the ground and surface water.

Because these chemicals are so pervasive in our lives, PFAS and PFOAS have even been found in areas removed from this kind of PFAS-intensive activity since they don’t biodegrade. They’re also water soluble, which often makes exposure quick and containment challenging.

The best way to know if you have PFAS-contaminated water is to use a chemical water test. With a free home water test from Culligan, you’ll get results back in as little as a few minutes, and your local Culligan Man can review the results with you to help you understand the levels of PFAS or other contaminants in your water, and recommend the right solution to help you filter them out of your water.

Treating PFA and PFOA Contamination

Though there may not be any truly effective methods to reduce your PFAS exposure, there are steps you can take to make sure your water is safe to drink and PFAS-contaminant free.

While the problem of PFAS water contamination may seem daunting, they can at least be treated with the right filtration. Several reliable methods, like carbon filtration, ion exchange, and reverse osmosis water treatment effectively remove PFAS from water.

Experts in New England water, your Culligan Man can help you understand whether you have PFAS in your water, and if they’re at a level that you should consider treating them with a drinking water system or a whole-house filtration system. Contact us today to schedule your free home water test to turn on the safest, best tasting water right at home.

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