From the Desk of Sarah Caliendo
Why am I being charged another fee?
If you live in Suffolk County have you noticed the relatively new $20 “Water Quality Treatment Charge” on your water bill and wondered what it was for? I’m here to help you understand where that money is going and why it is needed by your water supplier.
On August 26, 2020, New York State adopted new drinking water standards for “Emerging Contaminants” that include three main contaminates called 1,4 Dioxane, Perfluorooctanoic Sulfonate (PFOS), and Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA). Some of you may recognize PFOA from the 2019 movie ‘Dark Waters,’ which was referred to as C8. Do not worry though, the movie featured extreme conditions of exposure to PFOA, there is nowhere near that amount of PFOA in our drinking water. The Water Quality Treatment Charge on our water bills is to help the water suppliers apply additional treatment measures to remove these contaminants from our water.
1,4 dioxane is a synthetic chemical commonly utilized as a stabilizer for chlorinated solvents as well as reportedly being present in a variety of detergents, soaps, lotions, and cosmetics and is classified as a likely carcinogen. New York State adopted a maximum contaminant level (MCL) of 1 microgram per liter (µg/L), or 1 part per billion (ppb), of 1,4 Dioxane in the drinking water. This means each water supplier is required to reduce the amount of 1,4 Dioxane in the water below this level before being distributed. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) established exposure of 100 ppb over an 8 hour period to 1,4 Dioxane to be considered harmful to your health. As you can see, New York is requiring your water suppliers to reduce the amount of 1,4 Dioxane in your water to way below that amount. The rules and regulations being in place should provide you a level of confidence that action is happening.
PFOA and PFOS are other man-made chemicals that are used in making fluoropolymer coatings and products that resist heat, oil, stains, grease, and water. PFOA was famously found in products like Teflon and PFOS was commonly found to be the key ingredient in stain repellents. New York State adopted a maximum contaminant level of 10 nanograms per liter (ng/L), or 10 parts per trillion (ppt) for both PFOA and PFOS. Again, this means each water supplier is required to reduce the amount of PFOA and PFOS in the water below this level before being distributed. The EPA has established a health advisory level for PFOA and PFOS at 70 ppt. Once again, New York has established an MCL much lower than the federal regulators.
In order to remove 1,4 Dioxane, PFOA, and PFOS from your water, your water providers are adding Advanced Oxidation Process (AOP) systems and Granular Activated Carbon (GAC) units to their water plants. This is where that extra $20 on your water bill comes in. Each AOP and GAC unit costs millions of dollars to install and will cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to maintain every year, so your water supplier needs this extra money to build and maintain these systems to get rid of these contaminants and keep you healthy.
For more information regarding 1,4 Dioxane, PFOA, and PFOS and how it is being handled in your neighborhood please contact your water provider or visit http://www.scwa.com/emerging-contaminants/
J.R. Holzmacher P.E., LLC