A follow-up community meeting about the drinking water in the Oakland section of Burrillville will be held on Monday, October 23rd from 6:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. in the Burrillville Middle School auditorium. Burrillville Middle School is located at 2220 Bronco Hwy (Route 102), Burrillville, Rhode Island.
Earlier this month the Rhode Island Department of Heath (RIDOH) began distributing guidance to consumers on the Oakland Association water system, as well as private well owners in the area, after tests revealed a slightly elevated level of certain man-made chemicals, called per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), in the water system's well.
An initial community meeting was held on October 3rd. At the follow-up meeting on October 23rd officials from RIDOH, Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (RIDEM), and the Town of Burrillville will provide updates on:
• What is being done to address the elevated levels, • Sampling of private wells in the area, • The state's preliminary site investigation, and • Bottled water distribution.
PFASs are used in a variety of products and applications that are resistant to water, grease or stains including non-stick cookware, carpets, upholstered furniture, clothing, and food packaging, although the majority of PFAS have been phased out in the United States. Examples of facilities that have the potential to contain these chemicals due to use or disposal include industrial factories, airports, fire training academies, and landfills.
In early August, RIDOH's Center for Drinking Water Quality began working with a group of researchers at Brown University to conduct sampling at approximately 35 selected water systems to collect data on PFAS. The systems that were selected for this testing are located within one mile of a facility that could potentially contain PFAS chemicals or may have in the past. These chemicals are currently unregulated in drinking water, but the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently lowered the health advisory level for two types of PFAS to 70 parts per trillion (ppt) because of new findings on health effects.
Exceedances of this new health advisory were recorded during sampling at Oakland Association, Inc., which serves approximately 175 people. The sampling protocol calls for resampling whenever exceedances are identified. The three sample results collected from the system were 88 ppt, 69 ppt, and 114 ppt. Subsequent testing at several nonresidential sites in the area that use their own systems (for example a restaurant and a church) did not reveal the presence of PFAS.
The health guidance provided to Oakland Association customers includes recommendations to not boil water (boiling water concentrates these chemicals) and to use bottled water or other licensed drinking water until the level of PFAS is below the health advisory. This bottled water has been provided by RIDEM via water dispensers and should be used for drinking, food preparation, cooking, brushing teeth, and any activity that might result in swallowing water. This guidance remains in place.
Beginning on October 5th and through October 9th, RIDEM sampled over 50 private wells within a quarter mile radius of the Oakland Association Well. All the results of this sampling will be shared with each of the individual tenants/homeowners via mail. If any of the samples exceed the health advisory of 70 ppt, then the tenants/homeowners will also be notified as soon as possible via phone.
RIDEM has been providing drinking water, via bottled water and recently in-home water dispensers, at no charge to customers served by the Oakland Association due to the confirmed sampling results above the health advisory of 70 ppt. Those individuals served by private wells within a quarter mile radius of the Oakland Association well, pending results of our sampling, were also offered bottled water.
While consumers are taking these precautions, Oakland Association is already developing a plan of action with RIDOH to reduce these chemicals to acceptable levels, which could include treatment or connecting to a new water source. DEM is conducting an investigation to determine the source of the contamination.
All the other results on the other systems sampled in Rhode Island thus far have been below 70 ppt. Studies indicate that exposure to PFOA and PFOS over the health advisory level may result in adverse health effects, including developmental effects to fetuses during pregnancy or to breastfed infants; cancer; and effects to the liver, immune system, or thyroid.
PFASs are a class of man-made chemicals used in a variety of products and applications that are resistant to water, grease or stains including non-stick cookware, carpets, upholstered furniture, clothing, and food packaging, although the majority of PFAS have been phased out in the United States. Examples of facilities that have the potential to contain these chemicals due to use or disposal include industrial factories, airports, fire training academies, and landfills.