Despite treatment plant, clean water still weeks away for residents
(Athens News, November 5, 2007)
The Little Hocking Water Association now has a filtration plant designed for the purpose of removing the contaminant C8. But, that doesn't mean it's time for the 12,000 southeast Ohio residents served by the association to begin drinking water straight from the tap.
The granular-activated carbon-filtration plant went online around 11 last Thursday evening. But it's expected to take a few weeks to flush the system and make sure the treatment facility is properly working.
"We want people to still avail themselves of the bottled water," advised Little Hocking general manager Robert Griffin.
The water association serves customers in parts of eight townships in western Washington County and two townships (Rome and Troy) in Athens County.
The water association is asking DuPont to continue to pay for bottled water for six weeks while the system is purged, and sampling has made sure that the filtration is effectively removing C8. Griffin said the pipes and tanks are currently full of contaminated water.
A statement released by the company on Friday indicates it intends to continue to provide the alternative water - but for only four weeks. "We want to be able to confirm for our customers that the system as designed and constructed by DuPont will effectively remove the higher concentrations of C8 found in (the) water," Griffin said.
The filtration method has been used in less-contaminated water districts, but it's unknown how well it will perform on Little Hocking water, which is the most C8-contaminated public-water system in the nation.
DuPont first made the bottled-water program available in September 2005 in response to Dr. Edward Emmett's August 2005 release of findings indicating that people who drank water from the Little Hocking Water Association had C8 levels 60 to 80 times higher than expected in the general population. The small, rural public water supply became contaminated as a result of manufacturing processes at DuPont Washington Works near Parkersburg, W.Va.
While more than 96 percent of the U.S. population has C8 in their blood, the federal Environmental Protection Agency has estimated the average for most people at 5 to 9 parts per billion. Emmett's University of Pennsylvania study detected levels ranging from 5 parts per billion to 4,000 parts per billion in folks from Little Hocking. All together, they exhibited a median level of 340 parts per billion. Emmett concluded that area residents should consider using an alternative source of water for drinking, cooking and tooth brushing.
The EPA's Science Advisory Board calls C8, also known as PFOA or perfluorooctanoic acid, a "likely carcinogen."
Even so, DuPont officials say four weeks is plenty of time to flush the pipes and confirm test results.
"Lab results have shown that the system is performing as designed," said Washington Works plant manager Bill Hopkins. "We're pleased that treated water is now flowing in the LWHA system."
The statement said that DuPont will continue the bottled water program through Nov. 30.
Griffin said the water association and DuPont will test samples to verify that C8 has been removed from the water. He said they will share the results with their customers as soon as they become available.
The filtration plant is designed with a special food-grade carbon material that must be changed out before it becomes saturated in order to remain effective. The Little Hocking plant has two lead beds of carbon and two lag beds. The C8 levels are tested after water goes through each cycle, and the carbon must be changed out when sampling detects 15 parts per trillion coming out of the lead bed. That's to make sure that the C8 has been reduced to the point where it can no longer be detected in the finished water.