Contaminated jugs of water remain in New England supermarkets weeks after advisory issued | USA TODAYSource: USA Today
By Morgan Hines
Nearly a month ago, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health issued an advisory on high levels of PFAS, a class of man-made chemicals including PFOS and PFOA, in jugs of water from Spring Hill Farm Dairy Inc.
PFAS, or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, are considered “forever chemicals,” because of their extremely strong flourine-carbon bonds. Because of the strength of those bonds, they’re constantly in the environment, Ansje Miller, director of policy and partnership at the Center for Environmental Health told USA TODAY.
The chemicals have been linked to cancers, obesity and immunotoxicity. PFAS chemicals interfere with hormones, so they can wreak havoc on different systems throughout the body, she said.
The levels of PFAS found in the bottled water were four times higher than New Hampshire’s proposed standards, according to the Boston Globe.
“Given our new health-based standards for drinking water, we wouldn’t recommend that anyone in the public drink this water,” Jim Martin, a spokesman for the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services, told the Globe.
The Massachusetts advisory recommended water with such levels not be consumed by infants or women who are pregnant or breastfeeding. Ann Scales of the Massachusetts Department of Health told USA TODAY that this recommendation was given out of an “abundance of caution.”
The contaminated water is still in gallon containers on shelves of supermarkets across New England, including Whole Foods and Stop & Shop, the Boston Globe reported.
Miller, of the Center for Environmental Health, told USA TODAY that the fact this contaminated water is still on shelves is not OK.
“Our regulatory system is completely broken,” Miller said.
The PFAS levels came to light when the state of New Hampshire conducted a background review that tested bottled water, Scales said.
“The New Hampshire test results indicate that the combined level of PFOA and PFOS in the two samples from Spring Hill Springs were 61.6 parts per trillion (ppt) and 68.6 ppt respectively, below the EPA limit (which is 70 ppt),” said Scales. “Spring Hill Farm bottled water for these two compounds did not exceed the EPA health advisory.”
Because the water did not exceed the applicable regulatory standard, their permit remained valid and within good standing, according to the Massachusetts advisory. The state let Spring Hill Farm Dairy Inc. know that PFAS had been found in some of the brands they produce, according to Nancy Sterling, spokesperson for the company.
Within 48 hours of being alerted that their water was contaminated, Sterling said that the farm had a contract to put in a brand new filtration system to screen out all traces of PFAS.
The new system was installed on July 22, Sterling said, and any water bottled by Spring Hill Farm Dairy Inc. since then is completely safe for anyone to drink.
“They tried to do everything right as soon as they were told,” said Sterling about the farm. “They immediately got a contract in place, spent $100,000 which they were under no obligation to do. They want what’s best and safest for their customers.”
They weren’t obligated because there are no enforceable maximum contamination levels of PFAS in drinking water at this time. But the Environmental Protection Agency has issued an advisory for water with 70 ppt or more of PFOA and PFOS.
With the newly installed filter, Scales said that the farm is conducting a review to find out what the original source of PFAS is. The Department of Health is awaiting their results.