Yes! Low levels of PFAS have been found in samples of water from Waterloo.
Poly and perfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs) have been found in drinking water samples from the village of Waterloo in recent times.
Seneca County Health Department and the village put out a press release on Friday afternoon saying that tests in September found detectable levels of 1.24 nanograms or parts per trillion of PFOA or perfluorooctanoic acid and 2.83 nanograms or parts per trillion of PFHxS or perfluorohexane sulfonate.
The firefighting foam used at the former Seneca Army Depot in Romulus, close to Seneca Lake, is made with these chemicals.
The levels are far below the limit of 70 parts per trillion set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Thomas Scoles, the county’s chief sanitarian, said that the EPA’s action levels for PFAS are based on studies that show an association between exposure to PFOA and PFOA in concentrations above 70 parts per trillion and bad health effects on developing fetuses and breastfed babies, as well as cancer, liver damage, and a change in cholesterol levels.
Scoles said that in response to concerns about PFASs in public water systems, the state Health Department is in the process of setting its own allowable limits in the water system at 10 parts per trillion for both compounds. This is much lower than the EPA’s current allowable level of 70 ppt.
Jim Bromka, who is in charge of the village water treatment facility in Fayette on Seneca Lake, said that the proposed state regulations that require quarterly testing for PFASs will be done regularly before the expected changes, along with testing for possible algal toxins when algal blooms are found on Seneca Lake.
Bromka said, “The extra monitoring will help the village figure out how bad the contamination is and help them decide which treatment systems will work best to clean up the water supply.”
Village Mayor Jack O’Connor said that the village will work hard to get money to buy a granular-activated carbon system to add to the project to improve the water treatment plant that is already going on.
“It has been found that the GAC system reliably removes both HABs and PFAS,” O’Connor said.
“This is a great chance to get ahead of any possible water quality problems in the future by using existing property taxes in a smart way,” he said.
Scoles and Bromka will talk more about the water tests at the Village Board meeting on Monday at 7 p.m.
ALSO SEE: Does Bottled Water have Pfas?
Waterloo leads an interdisciplinary team investigating new forever chemicals in Canadian water systems
Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), also called “forever chemicals,” are found in the water systems of more than 2.5 million Canadians. The University of Waterloo is leading an interdisciplinary team to find and treat these chemicals.
PFAS are a new group of more than 4,000 environmental pollutants that aren’t known to be bad for human health. PFAS are used in many different things, like cosmetics, clothing, fire-fighting foams, and materials used to package food.
“PFAS are even less likely to break down than plastic. “Their carbon-fluorine bond is one of the strongest you can make in chemistry. It’s also very, very stable from a thermodynamic point of view,” said Scott Hopkins, who led the project and is a professor in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Waterloo. “Because it was made by people, there aren’t many natural things that can change it.”
Hopkins said that traditional ways of treating water don’t work to get rid of these chemicals. “Many smaller communities in Canada don’t have the resources to test for pollutants like PFAS or the ability to use new technologies to treat water and wastewater. Because of this, pollutants will stay in their ecosystems and biomagnify, or build-up, in the local food web.”
Hopkins is working with professor Franco Berruti from Western University, as well as USP Technologies, Brown and Caldwell, the Ontario Clean Water Agency, the Ontario Water Consortium, the Canadian Water and Wastewater Association, and seven regional water supply systems in Ontario.
“To solve big, complicated problems like this, you need to bring in a lot of experts, each with their own unique and valuable skills. “Our team has top experts in chemistry, chemical engineering, artificial intelligence, water treatment, policy, and regulation,” said Hopkins. “We have people working on this problem from academia, business, non-profits, and government agencies.”
During the treatment process, samples will be taken from the input and at different points along the way. Researchers will focus on the catchment areas of the Union Water Supply System, Lake Huron Primary Water Supply System, Elgin Area Primary Water Supply System, Lambton Area Water Supply System, Peel Region, the City of Cornwall Water System, and the cities of Durham and London.
Hopkins and his team will focus on finding PFAS, figuring out what they are made of, and using machine learning models to predict the physical and chemical properties of PFAS and the products that are made when they are changed during treatment.
Hopkins said, “We are experts in ion mobility and mass spectrometry, which lets us separate complicated mixtures and find out what’s in them.” “We also use machine learning to infer things about the chemical processes we work with and find the best treatment conditions so we can get the most out of the tools we have.”
Western will focus on the treatment since Berruti and his ICFAR colleagues have already made a lot of progress in getting rid of PFAS in biosolids through pyrolysis and in water through UV treatment. This work is done with Domenico Santoro, who is a senior manager at USP Technologies Inc. for research and innovation and an adjunct research professor at Western.
Franco Berruti, a professor at Western University, said, “This (NSERC Alliance Option 2) funding lets us make more progress on finding the best ways to get chemicals out of Canada’s water supply for good.” “In collaboration with industry, local governments, and colleagues from the University of Waterloo, ICFAR is very proud of its growing research activities that aim to find new ways to clean water and have a direct effect on the community.”
This joint research project will find out which PFAS is in the water in Ontario, as well as the chemical and physical processes that makeup treatment technologies. It will also give Canadian water systems important information about potential PFAS contaminants and treatment options.
The project is paid for by a grant from the NSERC Alliance called Option 2. Alliance grants encourage university researchers to work with partner organizations, which can be from the private, public, or not-for-profit sectors.
These grants help fund research projects led by strong, complementary teams that work well together.
These projects will lead to new knowledge and speed up how research results can be used to help Canada.
Under Alliance Option 2, NSERC gives more money to research projects that are trying to solve important problems that have a direct effect on society.