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Precautionary Measures Taken as Greensboro Investigates Elevated Levels of PFOS/PFOA

Post Date:08/02/2018 2:00 PM


On July 30, 2018, the City’s Water Resources Department received sample results that showed the finished water from the Mitchell Water Treatment Plant exceeded the US Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) health advisory level for perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS) and related chemical perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA).

The EPA established the health advisory levels at 70 parts per trillion to provide residents, including the most sensitive populations, with a margin of protection from a lifetime of exposure to PFOA and PFOS from drinking water.

The concentration of PFOS and PFOA in Greensboro's finished water from the treatment plant was 71 ppt and 9 ppt respectively. While no drinking water regulatory limit was violated, the City offers its firm resolve to address this issue.

PFOS and PFOA belong to a family of man-made chemicals used for more than 50 years to make products that resist heat, oil, stains, grease, and water. Perfluorinated compounds like PFOS and PFOA are extremely stable and do not breakdown in the environment.

Common uses of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) include:

  • Nonstick cookware, stain-resistant carpets and fabrics
  • Coatings on some food packaging, especially microwave popcorn bags and fast food wrappers
  • Components of fire-fighting foam
  • Many industrial applications.

In 2014, the Water Resources Department detected and reported to the State Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and EPA the presence of PFOS and PFOA in the drinking water. At that time the chemicals were added to the list of substances water utilities monitored as part of the EPA Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule (UCMR). UCMR requires large water suppliers to test for select unregulated contaminants.

The department has been very proactive in its efforts to investigate the source and research ways to address the presence of this contaminant of emerging concern in the city’s water supply watershed. To date, the Water Resources Department has advanced a comprehensive and aggressive response to PFAS contamination in the city’s drinking water supply. Specific measures can be found online.

The primary mission of the Water Resources Department is to provide the highest level of utility service to its customers. A very important part of that mission includes providing safe, clean drinking water that meets the highest standards of quality.

To that end, the department will continue to work with key stakeholders with the purpose of formulating and executing a response that substantially reduces or removes PFOS and PFOA in the city’s watershed through treatment and source reduction measures. By doing this, the City will be well positioned to address this and other contaminants of emerging concern in advance of any future regulatory limit.

Customers can contact the department’s water quality laboratory at 336-373-7527 with any questions or concerns.

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