May 21–FALMOUTH — Four houses in the Currier Road neighborhood are receiving bottled water after a federal agency changed its advisory level for two emerging contaminants in drinking water.
On Thursday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency changed its advisory level for perfluorinated compounds, known as PFOS and PFOAs, from 0.2 micrograms per liter and 0.4 micrograms per liter to 0.07 micrograms per liter for both — a level that now puts the four properties in question at levels above those recommended.
Doug Karson, community involvement leader for the Air Force Civil Engineer Center at Joint Base Cape Cod, called the affected homeowners, who then received a notice warning them not to drink or cook with their well water.
“Showering in your well water is not a concern,” according to the notice.
Karson also dropped off three one-gallon jugs of water, as well as a 24-pack of smaller bottles at each of the affected properties.
The Air Force has been checking private wells in the area for about a year after finding that water coming from a water treatment plant showed elevated levels of the compounds. The Air Force, which has been working to clean up other contaminants from years of military training at the base, shut down an infiltration well near Currier Road and began testing private wells in the area.
Though none of the wells had previously shown results high enough to exceed the advisory levels, Thursday’s change by the EPA put four addresses above what the agency considers safe for drinking and cooking, Karson said.
“I called all the property owners and unfortunately I had to leave messages,” he said. “I let them know what’s going on and to expect a delivery.”
That’s caused some concern in the neighborhood both for homeowners who received the notices, as well as those who didn’t.
Donald and Joanne McCarthy, who own two adjacent homes in the neighborhood, received a notice at one and not at the other.
“The wells are 100 feet apart: How can one be substandard and the other not?” Donald McCarthy said.
His neighbor, James Hocking, who did not receive a notice or a delivery of water is equally perplexed.
“I’m not a happy camper,” Hocking said. “It’s all rhetoric. I want to know what they’re going to do about this.”
One of the difficult aspects of the emerging contaminants is pinpointing a cause. Perfluorinated compounds were used in household items that are stain and grease resistant and flame retardant. There is also the possibility that leaching septic systems may be the cause.
For now the Air Force cleanup program is taking responsibility because of the results at its treatment facility, Karson said, just as it did in a Pocasset neighborhood where three homes are receiving bottled water because of elevated levels linked to fuel truck crashes at Otis Rotary.
Though levels on Currier Road have fluctuated in the ongoing test results, none had ever been above the advisory levels until now, he said.
“Now that it’s dropped down, we have to take protective measures that drinking water is available and safe to use,” Karson said.
The Air Force is working on signing a contract for regular water deliveries to the affected homes, he said.
McCarthy wants a water filtration system to protect the people he rents his second home to during summer months.
The Air Force is reviewing the request for filtration systems, Karson said.
“We have to complete our investigation,” he said. “We’ll see what comes from that.”
There are possible implications for other Cape public water supplies as a result of the EPA guidelines, though it’s too early to tell, said George Heufelder, Barnstable County’s chief health officer.
Wells on Mary Dunn Road in Hyannis near the Barnstable County Fire and Rescue Training Academy were already being treated for elevated levels, even before the EPA lowered the advisory levels. Those wells were likely fouled by firefighting foam used at the academy, according to Barnstable officials.
About 20 public water supplies were tested in 2010 by the Silent Spring Institute and about 40 percent had detectable levels of perfluorinated compounds, said Laurel Schaider, a research scientist for the nonprofit organization.
“In some cases when we see fairly low levels, it could be septic systems,” she said. “When we see higher levels, it could be other sources like firefighting foam.”
By George Brennan, Cape Cod Times, Hyannis, Mass.
(c)2016 Cape Cod Times, Hyannis, Mass.
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