A class of chemicals virtually unheard of a decade ago are in our drinking water.

More of The Bad Stuff Turns Up

A class of chemicals virtually unheard of a decade ago, and thought to be relatively benign up until a few years ago, are in our drinking water. And we could, all of us, be getting very sick from these chemicals without realizing it.

PFAS (perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances) like PFOS (perfluorooctane sulfonate) and PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid), and several closely related chemicals are popping up in drinking water everywhere as more and more private wells are getting tested.

These chemicals were first detected in Westhampton and Westhampton Beach, then Bridgehampton, Yaphank, Wainscott, and now, East Quogue.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the chemicals have been used to make carpets, clothing, fabrics for furniture, paper packaging for food and other materials that are resistant to water, grease, or stains. They are also used for firefighting at airfields and in a number of industrial processes.

EPA’s health advisories indicate that exposure to PFOA and PFOS over certain levels may result in adverse health effects, including developmental effects to fetuses during pregnancy or to breastfed infants, cancer, liver effects, immune effects, and thyroid effects.

Authorities announced this week that preliminary tests at the former Damascus Road landfill in East Quogue detected the presence of PFOS and PFOA.

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and the New York State Department of Health are “currently evaluating the site for potential impacts on drinking water supplies,” according to a joint press release.

Monitoring wells previously installed at the site indicated combined PFOS and PFOA exceeding the EPA’s Health Advisory Level of 70 parts per trillion (ppt) in groundwater at one of the monitoring wells, with a combined PFOS and PFOA concentration of 11,620 ppt observed. Based on these results, additional investigations of private drinking water supply wells in the area are needed to ensure the public is protected.

The New York DEC and DOH are evaluating various sites, including inactive landfills, throughout the state for potential impacts to drinking water supplies with a focus on potential impacts from PFOS and PFOA, which are currently unregulated by the federal government.

This project was launched through Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Water Quality Rapid Response Team.

In a related matter, the DOH has notified some 800 Westhampton Beach and Quogue homeowners, asking them to contribute blood samples for testing. Affected homeowners in other areas will likely be asked to participate in the blood sampling program in the future.

rmurphy@indyeastend.com