By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Friday, May 20, the Alabama Department of Public Health announced that the tap water from the West Morgan-East Lawrence Water Authority, the Gadsden Water Works and Sewer Board, the Centre Water and Sewer Board, A.W. (Vinemont Anon West Point) Water Systems Inc., West Lawrence Water Co-op, the Northeast Alabama Water District, the Rainbow City Utilities Board, and the Southside Water Works and Sewer Board may pose some health risks according to new standards released by the US Environmental Protection Agency.
State Representative Mack Butler wrote, “Health Advisory- Today I received a call from our State Health Officer to make me aware of a recent ADEM alert about our water in Rainbow City, Gadsden, and Southside. The advisory is for pregnant and breast feeding women. Currently Rainbow City buys their water from Gadsden who has announced that they are working on the issue. Southside gets their water from wells but is connected to Gadsden for emergencies and Rainbow City is in the process of connecting to Odenville and will be buying water from them rather than Gadsden very soon. This conversion will be complete in a few months. I will post updates as I receive.
The Alabama Department of Public Health announced that it is working with the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM) and federal agencies to determine any potential hazards related to perfluorinated compounds in drinking water in the eight north Alabama water systems.
On Thursday, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a final health advisory for perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooactanoic acid (PFOA). These compounds are man-made chemicals that resist heat, oil, stains, grease and water. They are found in products such as nonstick cookware, carpet protection products, firefighting foams, and waterproof clothing.
Recent scientific studies suggest that, “Exposure to PFOA and PFOS over certain levels may result in adverse health effects, including developmental effects to fetuses during pregnancy or to breastfed infants (e.g., low birth weight, accelerated puberty, skeletal variations), cancer (e.g., testicular, kidney), and liver effects.”
According to information from the Alabama Department of public health, PFOS and PFOA in drinking water are usually from facilities that manufactured these compounds and industries that used them in their manufacturing processes.
According to the EPA, the final health advisory is based on scientific studies and was developed to protect sensitive populations such as pregnant women, breast-fed infants and formula-fed infants whose formula is prepared with tap water. The health effects of exposure in the general population are not totally clear at this time, but the health advisory level will be protective for them as well.
EPA’s health advisories are recommend that pregnant (or women who might become pregnant) and breast-feeding mothers served by the identified water systems consider using alternate sources of drinking water. EPA further states that for formula-fed infants, it is advisable to consider using formula that does not require adding water. Other people served by these systems may also consider these steps.
PFCs will not be removed by boiling the water. Be aware that PFCs will also be in your ice.
Other household uses of water such as showering, bathing, laundry and dishwashing are not a concern.
For the last three years, the levels of PFOS, PFOA and emerging contaminants in surface water have been monitored in all drinking water systems serving more than 10,000 people and in selected systems serving fewer people.
The ADPH says that it will continue to review all studies and recommendations related to ingestion of these chemicals through public water supplies. ADEM is working with the named water systems to collect additional monitoring data where appropriate and to identify methods to reduce the water concentration of PFCs to a level below the final health advisory recommendation.
State Health Officer Dr. Tom Miller said, “We continue to use the best information available to make recommendations to protect the public.”
The water may be safe enough for farm animals and pets. The Alabama Political Reporter is monitoring the situation and will report more as we learn more.