PFOA 2006
Traces of C8 found in spring.
By Brad Bauer. The Marietta Times (Ohio). January 10, 2006.


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January 10, 2006

The Marietta Times (Ohio)

Traces of C8 found in spring

By Brad Bauer

Sam Clatterbuck Jr., an employee of Crystal Springs Water, Marietta, loads bottled water recently for a delivery to the Belpre area.

Trace amounts of the DuPont chemical C8 were recently detected in a Williamstown spring used by one of the bottling companies under contract with Little Hocking Water Association to provide C8-free water to its customers.

It is the first time the chemical has been detected in a water source this far upstream from DuPont’s Washington, W. Va., Works plant near Parkersburg, according to the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency. But until just recently, scientific equipment was not sophisticated enough to detect the chemical at the amounts recorded, which were in the parts per trillion range.

Williamstown is about 18 miles northeast of the DuPont plant.

Gary Matheny, owner of Crystal Spring Water, 320 Franklin St., Marietta, said lab results confirmed Thursday that C8 was present in water collected from his Williamstown spring. Three separate tests from two labs recorded the amount of C8 in the water at between 14 and 17 parts per trillion.

The chemical has never been regulated by the federal Environmental Protection Agency, but an interim “safe” level recognized by Ohio and West Virginia environmental officials is 150 parts per billion.

It was only within the past six months that the level of C8 could be detected at the part per trillion levels, according to the Ohio EPA.

Matheny said he is voluntarily notifying customers of the contamination this week. Also, a specialized filtration system has been ordered to remove the chemical from the water and is expected to be in place by the end of next week.

“We’ve been using that well for 84 years and we’ve never had a problem with it until now,” said Matheny. “We don’t know how it got there — at levels this low it may be something as simple as Teflon tape on a fitting — but we are exploring every avenue and we are taking the necessary steps to remove it.”

Crystal Spring Water has been a Marietta fixture since 1922 and has about 20 employees.

The chemical C8, also known as ammonium perfluorooctanoate or PFOA, has been used by DuPont since 1951 at its Washington Works plant in the production of Teflon, which is used in a variety of consumer goods, including non-stick cookware. C8 taints several local water districts in Wood County and western Washington County. It was recently reported by the federal EPA that the chemical is a “likely” carcinogenic to humans. The EPA’s review is ongoing.

DuPont has already settled a class-action lawsuit with local residents and most recently agreed to pay an EPA fine of more than $10 million for failing to report concerns about the chemical to the EPA sooner.

DuPont maintains C8 causes no known health effects in humans. Also, the company said the trace levels of C8 found in the spring are safe to drink and noted they are “hundreds of times less than any established regulatory standard.”

In fact, the amounts detected in the spring are 10,000 times below the the established “safe” level.

Crystal Spring Water is one of three bottlers that contracted last October to deliver bottled water to Little Hocking Water Association customers until C8 filters can be installed at the local water system. DuPont is paying for the bottled water and the filters as part of a court settlement. Some of the highest levels of C8 are found in Little Hocking wells that serve thousands of customers in western Washington County.

Matheny said Culligan-brand water is available to customers who are concerned about the trace amounts of C8 found in the spring water. The company has been distributing Culligan water to some customers since September because the Williamstown spring could not produce enough water to take care of the demand from Little Hocking customers.

Crystal’s spring produces about 2,800 gallons of water daily.

Matheny said testing for C8 is not required to sell bottled water in Ohio or West Virginia. He said Little Hocking Water Association General Manager Robert Griffin conducted the first round of C8 testing on the spring water late last year.

After two rounds of testing, Griffin notified Matheny of a potential problem in mid-December. Matheny hired an independent lab to conduct tests to confirm the data. Those results came back Thursday.

“We never imagined we would find it in our water,” Matheny said. “As soon as we confirmed it we took the steps to remove it.”

According the latest published samples, the amount of C8 in Crystal spring water is at least 200 times lower than what is currently flowing through the Little Hocking water system. The water system recently recorded levels of C8 at 3,500 parts per trillion, and has documented the levels as high as 7,200 parts per trillion.

Griffin referred all questions about the recent findings to the district’s attorney, Dave Altman, of Cincinnati. Altman said the water association is also sending out a notice to those who participate in the bottled water distribution program. He said customers have a right to know what is in their water.

“It has long been our position that we want no detectable level of C8 or any other compound in our water,” Altman said.

He said the trace amounts in the spring water might not mean much to the average person, but that many Little Hocking residents have high concentrations of C8 in their blood and they don’t want to add to those levels.

Altman said the spring water was sent for testing along with other water samples and Little Hocking water as part of a control group. He said the tests had nothing to do with the bottled water program, but that it was part of a study for “possible future litigation” not involving Crystal Spring.

“Little Hocking was gathering information on its own,” Altman said. “Little Hocking paid for (the first two tests) and was not expecting to see anything in the bottled water.”

Marietta and Williamstown officials said local water systems have never been tested for C8 and that there are no immediate plans to do so.

Marietta Safety-Service Director Dave Sands said assuming the Williamstown tests were conducted properly, it would not be unlikely for trace amounts of C8 to be found in Marietta’s water system.

Air emissions are thought to be responsible for most C8 found in groundwater. After falling to earth, the particles are washed into the ground by rain.

“If air is the method of transport, no, it would not surprise me,” Sands said. “But the concentration detected in the Crystal spring is not at a level that causes me concern.”

Sands said C8 water detection tests costs about $4,500.

“The amounts are so miniscule I don’t believe there is any risk right now that would warrant spending any tax money,” Sands said.

The position was echoed by Ohio EPA Environmental Engineer Sarah Wallace.

“If, for whatever reason down the road, the dangers of C8 changes, we will take that into consideration and change how we monitor,” Wallace said.

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