Frequently Asked Questions

What are Perfluorochemicals (PFCs), PFOA and PFOS?

Perfluorochemicals are a family of manmade chemicals that have been used for decades as an ingredient to make products that resist heat, oil, stains, grease and water, and are extremely resistant to breakdown in the environment.

Common uses of PFCs include: 1) nonstick cookware, stain-resistant carpets and fabrics, 2) coatings on some food packaging—especially microwave popcorn bags and fast food wrappers, 3) firefighting foam, and 4) many industrial applications. PFOA and PFOS are fluorinated organic chemicals that are part of a larger group of chemicals referred to as perfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs). PFOA and PFOS have been the most extensively produced and studied of these chemicals. They have been used to make carpets, clothing, fabrics for furniture, paper packaging for food and other materials (e.g., cookware) that are resistant to water, grease or stains. They are also used for firefighting at air fields and in a number of industrial processes.

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Is my water safe to drink?

Yes. The water provided by Aqua tests well below the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) health advisory levels for PFOA/PFOS and is safe to drink. Testing to date has not detected levels over the EPA Health Advisory of 70 parts per trillion at active sources. Both the EPA and Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) consider this level protective of public health.

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Who is responsible for regulating PFCs in drinking water?

In Pennsylvania, the EPA and PA DEP set and regulate water standards.

The EPA identifies the contaminants to regulate in drinking water, and they set regulatory limits for amounts of certain contaminants. The EPA currently regulates 90 chemicals in drinking water with “limits” called maximum contaminant levels (MCLs). Aqua uses the EPA’s maximum contaminant levels to ensure water quality.

There are some contaminants for which the EPA develops health advisories that do not have set regulatory limits. The health advisories provide technical information on health effects. PFOA and PFOS are included in those contaminants that have no regulatory limit but are associated with a health advisory.

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Why are PFCs in the news?

In 2009, the EPA published provisional health advisories for PFOA and PFOS. At the time they were established, these advisories were 200 parts per trillion for PFOS and 400 parts per trillion for PFOA.

In May 2016, the EPA replaced the 2009 provisional advisories with new, lifetime health advisories that combined the two chemicals and set a 70 parts per trillion health advisory level for both contaminants.

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What is a part per trillon (ppt) equivalent to?

One part per trillion is the equivalent of one grain of sand in an Olympic-size swimming pool. The EPA’s lifetime health advisory sets a combined limit of 70 parts per trillion for PFOA and PFOS.

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Why are PFCs an issue in Southeastern Pennsylvania?

It is believed that groundwater in certain areas of eastern Montgomery County have been contaminated with PFOA and PFOS as a result of previous firefighting activity at nearby military bases.

The water Aqua provides to customers in this area is a blend of multiple sources of treated groundwater and surface water.

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What is Aqua doing to address the issue?

Aqua Pennsylvania has committed to conducting regular testing for the presence of PFOA and PFOS in our water sources in eastern Montgomery County to ensure they remain below the EPA’s HAL. Aqua routinely updates its findings and shares them here so customers can stay informed. In addition, Aqua is diligently collecting samples from a broader geographic area.

Over the past several months, we have begun to receive laboratory results for these tests. Our most recent testing for these chemicals used a more sensitive method, under the EPA’s Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule (UCMR) program. The results showed low levels of PFOA and PFOS in sources that had previously tested as “non-detect” using the 2009 provisional advisory. This does not necessarily imply that levels are increasing, since testing sensitivities were more rigorous due to laboratory method improvements.

Aqua’s recent testing, using the more sensitive testing method, has been focused on our water supply sources used to supply Horsham Township and adjacent areas of eastern Montgomery County. PFOA and PFOS were detected at levels below the EPA’s health advisory limit of 70 parts per trillion at the source locations.

In response to concerns over potential health impacts from PFOA and PFOS, Aqua is providing recent results of PFOA and PFOS testing in our service area. This includes laboratory results from a well in Bristol Township that had a PFOA concentration of 26 parts per trillion in 2013 and 20 parts per trillion in 2014. These levels were well below the EPA’s 2009 provisional health advisory for these chemicals. As we do annually, we communicated these results to customers in our Consumer Confidence Reports.

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What would happen if any of Aqua’s water sources tested higher than the EPA’s health advisory level?

If levels above the HAL are detected, our customers, the EPA, and the PA DEP will be immediately notified of the results and of our planned remedial actions.

 

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How did the EPA set its Health Advisory Level for PFOS and PFOA?

EPA’s health advisory levels were calculated to offer a margin of protection against adverse health effects to the most sensitive populations: fetuses during pregnancy and breastfed infants. The health advisory levels are calculated based on the drinking water intake of lactating women, who drink more water than other people and can pass these chemicals along to nursing infants through breastmilk. The levels were also based upon the exposure to the chemical for 70 years drinking 2 liters (8 glasses) of drinking water per day. It also assumes 20 percent of the individual exposure to PFCs comes from drinking water and 80 percent comes from home and environmental (non-drinking water) exposures.

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Can I use any home devices to remove PFCs?

According to the EPA, home drinking water treatment units are typically certified by independent third party organizations against American National Standards Institute (ANSI) standards to verify their contaminant removal claims. Some home filters remove impurities using activated carbon and reverse osmosis, which are the same technologies used by public water supply systems to remove PFOA and PFOS. However, there currently are no ANSI protocols for testing home treatment systems to verify that these devices effectively remove PFOA and PFOS or how frequently the filters should be changed to maintain removal efficiency. NSF International is currently developing such protocols. Since no recommendation can be made by EPA at this time, customers can use the following links to find information about home systems, which they can discuss with their physicians:

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What are the health implications of PFC exposure?

We encourage customers with health concerns or questions to contact the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) for information relating to PFC exposure.

 

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Is there a requirement for water providers to test for PFCs on a weekly or monthly basis?

No, there is no current requirement for testing for the presence of PFCs on a weekly or monthly basis. Since PFCs are not regulated, there is no requirement by the U.S. EPA or Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection to monitor for these contaminants. The only monitoring that occurred was required between 2013 and 2015 by the U.S. EPA as part of a national research effort called UCMR3.

Since then, following findings of high concentrations of PFCs in the general area of the naval air station near Horsham, Aqua Pennsylvania voluntarily decided to proactively test for the presence of PFOS/A in our water sources in eastern Montgomery County. This decision was intended to ensure the results remain below the U.S. EPA’s health advisory level. Aqua routinely updates its findings and shares them here so customers can stay informed.

For any of our groundwater sources that have exceeded 40 parts per trillion, Aqua Pennsylvania initially tests on a weekly basis until we can determine if concentrations are stabilizing, as we know this is an important issue for our customers. These tests are analyzed internally and then posted on a monthly basis. With that said, please note that sometimes there are situations that inhibit the company’s ability to test and post results on a monthly basis. However, these situations are limited and the company is committed to voluntarily testing and posting, and will do so to keep our customers informed.

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How quickly does Aqua Pennsylvania obtain results from the time the Company initiates testing?

It varies, but under ideal circumstances, we have results to our experts for review as soon as two weeks from sampling. However, our laboratory does large volumes of testing that is required by environmental agencies for our day-to-day operations, which can impact our schedule for PFOS/A testing and posting to our website. For comparison, outside laboratories have taken up to two months to get us results. We know communities are eager to get these results sooner, and so we’ve invested in the capability to conduct these tests in-house, which lets us get the information to you sooner.

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I have a question that wasn’t answered on this website. What should I do?

If you have additional questions or concerns, please feel free to contact Aqua at 877.987.2728 or email us at custservreply@AquaAmerica.com.

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