Maysville calls special session to discuss water issues

Maysville calls special session to discuss water issues

MAYSVILLE — The Town of Maysville will hold a special session Thursday at 7 p.m. to discuss the high levels of PFAS detected in the town’s water system and the closing of its well and the switch to Jones County Water for the town.

Per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), routinely called “forever chemicals,” are a group of man-made chemicals that do not break down. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and its Agency for Toxic Substance and Disease Registry (ATSDR), “PFAS are man-made chemicals that have been used in industry and consumer products worldwide since the 1950s. They have been used in nonstick cookware, water-repellent clothing, stain-resistant fabrics and carpets, some cosmetics, some firefighting foams, and products that resist grease, water, and oil.”

On Monday, based upon the test results, Maysville shuttered its well and switched to Jones County Water out of an abundance of caution.

The NC Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances Testing Network (PFAST) Network analyzed a sample from the Maysville well for 55 PFAS compounds. The combination of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS) were detected at a level of 103 parts per trillion (ppt). PFOS was detected at a concentration greater than 70 ppt. Perfluorohexane sulfonic acid (PFHxS) was detected at a concentration of approximately 100 ppt.

In response to receiving the PFAST Network results, the town collected raw and finished water samples which also showed PFOS and the combination of PFOA and PFOS above 70 ppt and PFHxS above 90 ppt.

Of the PFAS compounds, the Federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has established lifetime Health Advisory Levels (HAL) for only PFOA, PFOS and the combination PFOA and PFOS all at 70 ppt. A health advisory has not been established for PFHxS.

Therefore, the concentration of PFOS and the combination of PFOA and PFOS were found at levels above the lifetime HAL. The following is a link to EPA information about PFOA and PFOS:

PFAS are a family of non-regulated man-made chemicals that had not been previously tested for in the Maysville municipal well. The water produced from the Maysville well still maintains full compliance with all current federal and state regulations for drinking water, but the presence of PFAS is of concern.

The town, while its well is shut down, will be working with experts from all levels of government to identify the best solutions available to identify the potential source of PFAS and the best way to filter PFAS from our water.

The town has also been working with its legislators in seeking funding to remediate the PFAS levels immediately.  The N.C. House proposed budget and the N.C. Senate proposed budget both included funding to support the town. The final budget is still being debated in the legislature’s conference committee.

The town took the step to do additional testing of its raw and finished water after being informed that a raw water sample collected on May 7, 2019, from the Town's well by the PFAST Network was at a level that exceeded the recommended Lifetime Health Advisory (LHA) level of 70 parts per trillion in drinking water as set by the US EPA for two specific PFAS chemicals, perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS).

The latest results of the sample taken May 20 by Environmental Chemists, Inc. and tested by Northern Lake Service Inc,  Analytical Laboratory and Environmental Service, Camden WI, shows that the Town’s raw water and the town’s finished water has similar results, 159 ppt versus 154 ppt for PFOS.  

The measurement of 1 ppt is hard to visualize; you often see it explained as the equivalent of one drop of food coloring in 18 million gallons of water. One part per trillion is commonly represented as 1 nanogram per liter (ng/L) in PFAS laboratory testing.

The town is still awaiting the results of samples taken by another water quality testing firm, Enthalpy Analytical, who collected another set of samples of the town’s raw water and its finished water on May 24.

The town’s well draws water from the Castle-Hayne Aquifer at a depth of 300 feet and produces around 70,000 gallons of fresh water daily for approximately 450 customers.

“We have consulted with water experts within the state to make sure we are doing the right thing for our community,” Town Manager Schumata Brown said.

The town will continue to work with experts in the field to identify the best course of action for the town to correct problems associated with the well, Brown explained.  

Brown hopes to have the experts at the Special Session next Thursday to outline what steps the town should take next.

Brown further explained PFAS is considered a non-regulated substance and the testing by PFAST was the first time the town has had its raw water tested for these “forever chemicals.”

“We do test our finished water, after it's been treated, regularly,” Brown said.

The fact the raw water sample collected on May 7 showed a high level for PFAS came as a surprise to Brown and others in the state.  

“We are not like Wilmington, with heavy industry that uses these chemicals in production, and we do not have a fire fighting training center that uses fire fighting foam so having the tests show a high level of PFAS raises concerns,” Brown said.

The PFAST Network provided the town with a chart from the May 7 sampling which shows the measured concentration of PFOS exceeds the 70 ppt LHA level individually, while the combined PFOA+PFOS concentration was measured at 103 ppt. Other PFAS, including PFHxS, were detected but there are no federal health advisory levels for these compounds.

The initial results were verified through repeat analysis at a lab at the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University's as well as by independent measurement by Prof. Detlef Knappe’s laboratory at N.C. State.

The measurements presented should be viewed as preliminary according to P. Lee Ferguson, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering, Pratt School of Engineering & Nicholas School of the Environment, Duke University.

Ferguson made the recommendation to the town seek additional testing of its raw water (at the well site), along with testing of our finished water (after being treated) for PFAS as part of his conversations with the town.

Ferguson notified the town of the high PFAS levels telephonically on May 14 and in an email message that was sent to the Town on May 17.  

Additionally, Jeffrey D. Warren, Ph.D., Research Director, N.C. Policy Collaboratory at UNC notified representatives from the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality, members of the N.C. Legislature, including  Sen. Harry Brown and Rep. Pat McElraft, who represent our community in the legislature.

Warren additionally has stressed the initial sampling results were just “one sample at one point in time” and cautioned against jumping to conclusions without further testing.

The North Carolina PFAST Network is a statewide research collaboration to test for current levels of PFAS chemicals in drinking water and air samples across the state. The network comprises principal investigators from N.C. State, Duke, UNC, UNC-Wilmington, UNC-Charlotte, ECU and N.C. A&T, who have received General Assembly funding through the NC Policy Collaboratory.

The NC PFAST Network was created in response to a legislative mandate and funding by the North Carolina General Assembly to help answer questions about exposure to PFAS chemicals throughout N.C.

The General Assembly asked the “profound, extensive, and nationally recognized faculty expertise, technology, and instrumentation existing within the Universities of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Wilmington, North Carolina State University, North Carolina A&T State University, Duke University, and other public and private institutions of higher education located throughout the State should be maximally utilized to address the occurrence of PFAS, including GenX, in drinking water resources.”

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