Hyannis Water Dept. issues public drinking water advisory

Mary Dunn #3 well taken offline

The Town of Barnstable issued a drinking water health advisory to Hyannis residents Tuesday. The advisory was issued after the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a new lifetime Health Advisory of .07 parts per billion for Perfluorooctane Sulfonate (PFOS) and Perfluorooctanic acid (PFOA). 

The previous lifetime Health Advisory for PFOS and PFOA (individually or combined) was set by the EPA at .20 parts per billion. According to a release from the Town of Barnstable, although the two compounds are not currently regulated in drinking water, the town has acted in the past to meet the health advisory. In 2015, two carbon treatment systems were installed. According to the EPA, in addition to being non-regulatory, the health advisories are non-enforceable. The initial PFOS and PFOA provisional health advisory was issued in 2009. 

PFOS and PFOA are fluorinated organic chemicals that are part of a larger group of chemicals referred to as perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). PFOS and PFOA have been used to in the manufacture of products resistant to water, grease and stains including carpets, clothing, cookware and furniture fabrics. They are also used for firefighting training to fight oil and gas fires, the release said.

Most recent testing of the Hyannis Public Drinking Water System show a combined level of PFOS and PFOA of up to .18 parts per billion in the Mary Dunn #3 well, according to the release. In light of the new health advisory, the Town of Barnstable has taken the Mary Dunn #3 well offline. A carbon treatment system will be installed at the well. The town has also reestablished water system interconnection with the Town of Yarmouth. Water will be supplied to Hyannis via the interconnection by the end of the week, the release said.

The Town of Barnstable has also sampled all water sources in the system for PFOS and PFOA. Results are expected on Friday, June 3.

According to town officials, the most likely source of PFOS and PFOA in the Mary Dunn well field is from the use of firefighting foams at Barnstable County Firefighter Training Academy on South Flint Rock Road.

As the compounds are used in many everyday items, most people have been exposed to them. According to the EPA, pregnant women, nursing mothers and infants are most sensitive to PFOS and PFOA. Potential risk can be mitigated by not drinking water from the Hyannis system. EPA suggests that pregnant women, nursing mothers and infants drink bottled water. Bottled water should also be used when cooking foods that absorb water such as pasta. Formula that does not require the addition of water should be considered. Boiling water will not remove PFOS and FFOA, and instead, could increase their levels in the water.

According to the EPA, the water is safe for washing foods, brushing teeth and bathing.

In the case of older children and adults who are less sensitive to shorter-term exposure to these chemicals, the health advisory value is applicable to a lifetime of consuming water, the EPA said. No additional precautions or recommendations are required as the levels are being evaluated and reduced, according to the release. 

Concerned residents may pick up bottled water at 47 Old Yarmouth Road in Hyannis.

For more information about PFOS and PFOA, visit the EPA website here and the Centers for Disease Control and and Prevention website here.

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