What’s Up With the Water?

There’s been some excitement, and a fair amount of anxiety as one of Norwalk’s two municipal water companies released it’s required annual water quality report this summer. FIRST DISTRICT 2018 WATER QUALITY REPORT

The First District Water Department, which serves parts of East Norwalk as “out-of-district” customers, quietly added something new to the report this year as a result of new testing recommendations from the State of Connecticut. It was a section reporting on the presence of a family of chemicals frequently called PFAs, PFOs or PFOAs.

These chemicals are getting increased scrutiny from governments all over the U.S. as their toxicity, pervasiveness, persistence and effects on human health are being examined more closely. Despite this attention, the Federal government, via the Environmental Protection Agency has failed to set firm limits on the presence of these chemicals in drinking water–instead issuing a “Health Advisory” which sets a level of 70 parts per trillion for the entire class of chemicals in drinking water.

What is important to understand about these HA levels is that the EPA deems them to be the concentration of PFOA and PFOS in drinking water at which adverse health effects are not anticipated to occur over a lifetime. (SOURCE: https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2016-11/documents/clarification_memo_pfoapfos_dw_has.pdf)

In addition, in developing the health advisory level, the “EPA took into consideration sources of exposure to PFOA and PFOS other than drinking water, including: air, food, dust, and consumer products. Thus, to be protective of exposure, the calculation of the health advisory accounts for the relative exposure to PFOA and PFOS from a variety of sources, including food. ” (SOURCE: https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2016-11/documents/clarification_memo_pfoapfos_dw_has.pdf)

The First District Water has detected some levels which require action in two of its five wells (which have been taken out of service), but the blend of surface water and the well water, after being treated by the district is well below the warn levels for all five chemicals detected combined.

The testing took place as a result of reasonable requirements for assessments and testing put into place by the State of Connecticut. The Water District could and should have made this information known to its customers back in January when all of the testing was confirmed. However, it did proactively shut down the wells, and in the interim, it was in contact with the Connecticut Department of Health, which also recommended the shutdown of the two wells in question.

The First District has been continually asked to explain the issue ever since. On top of news coverage (https://www.thehour.com/news/article/First-Taxing-District-addresses-low-levels-14117481.php), the Norwalk Health Department and First District Water staffers came in and spoke with the Mayor’s Water Quality Committee (Agenda & Minutes), at which much more detailed questions were asked and answered, as well as a poorly attended public forum hastily convened for 10:30 am on Friday August 9th where a rushed Q&A period did not provide much of an opportunity for detailed questions beyond the material in the presentation, but served to announce the creation of a state-level task force.

Staff from the Second Taxing District municipal water company–South Norwalk Electric & Water (SNEW) were also present, but completely ignored at the forum. So if you are in East Norwalk and wondering if its safe to drink your water sourced by SNEW, here is what their website has to say:

SNEW is committed to providing safe reliable drinking water to the residents of Norwalk and Wilton. In fact, we perform over 30,000 analyses annually on approximately 3,500 samples while looking for more than 90 possible contaminants at various stages of the filtration process from our reservoirs through the taps of individual customers and in-between. SNEW tested for PFAS in 2014 and the results were non-detect. Then, in late 2018 the Connecticut Department of Public Health required all public water systems to conduct a comprehensive watershed assessment which included physically visiting with and interviewing all fire departments, identifying any gas station or car washes – or other known sources of PFAS contamination such as airports or manufacturing, (of which SNEW has none). SNEW does not own or use any well water, we rely on four surface reservoirs in Wilton and New Canaan. Our assessment was submitted to the CTDPH in March of this year before the deadline. In light of recent attention on PFAS, SNEW is currently conducting additional testing.

For more information: