Answers to today's trending questions about our water -
Do you monitor for Perfluorinated Compounds (PFCs including PFOA and PFOS)?
PFOAs are one of many chemicals that are known as Perfluorinated Compounds (PFCs). Although not currently regulated in drinking water, the Authority has monitored for the following PFC's and reported the results to both the US Environmental Protection Agency (US-EPA) and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PA-DEP). This group includes:
Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA)
Perfluorooctanesulfonic Acid (PFOS)
Perfluorononanoic Acid (PFNA)
Perfluorohexanesulfonic Acid (PFHxS)
Perfluoroheptanoic Acid (PFHpA)
Perfluorobutanesulfonic Acid (PFBS)
The Authority has never had a detection of these compounds in any of our groundwater or surface water sources and we will continue to monitor at the regulatory agencies request.
PFCs are man-made compounds and not naturally found in the environment. They have been used for many years in a variety of products such as firefighting foams, coating additives, cleaning products and lubricants. Many consumer products that are used on a daily basis contain PFCs, such as the coating on microwave popcorn and food bags, fast food containers and wrappers, non-stick cookware, plastic food storage containers, cosmetics, personal care products, Scotchguard, Gore Tex and Telfon, along with a myriad of other consumer goods.
These unregulated compounds are not included on either the US-EPA's or PA-DEP's Safe Drinking Water Act Primary or Secondary listing of contaminants. There is, however, a US-EPA Health Advisory Level that was established to ensure protection of the public following short-term exposure in drinking water.
No Lead Detected in NWWA Monitoring
Recent news reports reinforce the importance of testing for and, if detected, reporting the presence of lead in drinking water. At the NWWA, we take our responsibility to protect customers from lead exposure seriously. The Authority monitors for lead in conjunction with the Federal Lead and Copper Rule administered by the state of Pennsylvania. Lead has never been detected at any of the monitored sources, the distribution system or in the homes of customers. The results for our comprehensive water monitoring can be found here.
What happened in Flint?
According to news reports, about two years ago the state of Michigan decided to switch Flint's original water supply (Lake Huron) to the Flint River in order to save money. At this time a new water line was run to the lake.
CNN has reported that residents noticed a change in water quality almost immediately. Reports have indicated that this was because the river water was far more corrosive than water from Lake Huron and nothing was being added to the water to counter the corrosiveness.
As a result, the water began to rapidly erode the service lines and as CNN has reported, about half of the service lines to homes in Flint are made of lead.
Can this happen here?
Since the Forest Park Water purification facility began operations in 1994, the NWWA's primary source of water has been the Delaware River. Almost 92% of the water supplied to customers' homes and businesses throughout our 50-square-mile service area comes from this water source. The water purification process ensures a water supply that is non-corrosive. Click here to read more about the water purification process at Forest Park Water.
What should you do to make sure you don't have lead in your home?
While our 400+ miles of water mains deliver clean, safe water to your home or business and is not a source of lead in the water, customer service lines and plumbing fixtures may be made of lead or contain lead solder.
If your home or business was built prior to 1940 and has not had the water service line replaced, you should determine whether you have a lead service line. The service line is the pipe that connects your household plumbing to the water main in the street. Lead service lines are generally a dull gray color and are very soft. They can be identified easily by carefully scratching them with a key or coin. If the pipe is made of lead, the area you've scratched will turn a bright silver color. Do not use a knife or other sharp instrument and take care not to puncture a hole in the pipe. Please note that galvanized piping can also be dull gray in color. A strong magnet will typically cling to galvanized pipes, but will not cling to lead pipes. Lead service lines can be connected to the residential plumbing using solder. They have a characteristic solder "bulb" at the end or a compression fitting or other connector made of galvanized iron or brass/bronze.
A licensed plumber would be able to inspect the service line and make the determination for you. If your home has a lead service line, it is likely that other sources of lead exist in the home as well. Community health departments may offer free or low-cost lead assessments of the home to help homeowners identify and mitigate all sources of lead. If your service line cannot be accessed to determine whether it contains lead, you may opt to have your water tested by a certified laboratory.
According to the Pennsylvania Department of Health, the primary source of childhood lead poisoning in Pennsylvania continues to be exposure to aging, deteriorating lead-based paint (chips and dust), and not drinking water. If your home was built before 1978, it's possible it could have lead-containing paint. Factories in some areas may have produced products that contained lead, which could have left some lead in the soil. Lead can also be found in some jewelry, makeup, toys and dishware.
Steps you can take to minimize lead exposure
Tips for protecting you and your family from exposure to lead in tap water:
• Run the cold water tap to flush out lead. This is especially important if the water hasn't been used for several hours. Let the tap run until the water becomes cold. This flushes out any stagnant water in your home plumbing and replaces it with fresh water from the water main in the street.
• Use cold water for cooking and preparing baby formula. Because lead dissolves more easily in hot water, do not cook, drink or mix baby formula with hot tap water.
• Routinely clean faucet aerators. Sediment and metals can collect in the aerator located at the tip of your faucets. Replace aerators that are in poor condition. Aerators are available at local hardware stores.
• Test to see if your home's plumbing fixtures contain lead. Lead check swabs are available for purchase at plumbing and home improvement stores.
• Test your water for lead. Pennsylvania's Department of Environmental Protection offers a list of accredited laboratories.
If your home has a lead service line, it is likely that other sources of lead exist in the home as well. Montgomery County offers a Lead and Healthy Homes program that offers lead assessments of the home to help homeowners identify and mitigate all sources of lead.
To learn more about lead and the health effects from exposure, click here.