Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS)

DOCUMENTS

UPDATE - April 26, 2022

The Springvale H&T GAC Filters (for removing PFAS) Are Now Active

The Natick Department of Public Works Water/Sewer Division has some exciting news!

After much hard work and coordination between contractors and Town staff, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) has completed inspections and granted approval for the operation of the newly installed PFAS-removal Granular Activated Carbon (GAC) filters, which will treat the H&T portion of the Springvale Water Treatment Facility. The new GAC filters are anticipated to remove levels of PFAS down to “Not Detected” in the H&T portion. These results are supported by initial test runs through the filters.

The Springvale Water Treatment Facility is made up of two treatment operations, which combine prior to entering the distribution system: the H&T treatment portion and the Tonka treatment portion. The H&T treatment portion will be run at max capacity, with the GAC filters anticipated to remove levels of PFAS down to “Not Detected.” During periods of higher demand, the H&T portion alone cannot provide enough water to supply the entire Town. Thus, the filtered H&T water will be blended with the Tonka treatment portion to supply the Town with adequate drinking water supply. The resulting blended water will be reliably and consistently below the MassDEP required MCL, or safe level, of 20 ppt.

Additionally, the Natick Department of Public Works Water/Sewer Division is constructing two GAC filters that will remove PFAS from the Tonka treatment portion of the Springvale Water Treatment Facility.  These additional filters will operate seasonally, during the high demand season for the Town (typically May to October). These seasonal filters are scheduled to be in operation by the summer of 2022. With these additional filters, Natick’s treatment operations at Springvale will be more flexible and further reduce PFAS concentrations.

By providing drinking water in compliance with State regulations, the Town and MassDEP will no longer suggest use of bottled water for the sensitive subgroup.

For additional information regarding PFAS and regular updates, please check the Natick PFAS webpage at https://www.natickma.gov/1753/PFAS.  On this page, we post the most recent monthly PFAS sample results as soon as they are confirmed by the State, important announcements, and other helpful information concerning PFAS.

If you have any further questions, please email water@natickma.org or call 508-647-6557.

Images L to R: H&T GAC Filter Building Under Construction, Newly Installed H&T GAC Filter Vessels

UPDATE - February 17, 2022

We have received certification from MassDEP for the monthly PFAS testing results of the drinking water samples collected December 27, 2021. Natick’s sample results from all 3 active treatment facilities showed PFAS detections below MassDEP’s MCL, or the highest amount allowed by regulation (set at 20ng/L). The Springvale Water Treatment Facility sample detected PFAS at 19 ng/L. However, the Quarter 4 (months October through December) 2021 average exceeds the MCL, calculating out to 21ng/L. Since compliance is based on the quarterly average, Natick is in violation of MassDEP’s PFAS6 Drinking Water Standard for Quarter 4 2021. As required by MassDEP regulation, Natick has issued a Public Notification (PN) for Quarter 4 2021 which can be found on the PFAS webpage. For the full PN with further details, please see the following direct link: https://www.natickma.gov/DocumentCenter/View/12597/PFAS-Q4-2021-Public-Notification.

Natick is in the final stages of installing Granulated Activated Carbon (GAC) filters, and a building to house them, in order to remove PFAS from the H&T portion of the Springvale Water Treatment Plant. Due to supply chain issues, COVID-19, and weather conditions, there has been multiple delays. For the most recent updates and anticipated date of completion (along with other helpful PFAS info), please continue to check the Natick Water/Sewer Division’s PFAS webpage for updates. At the time of this update, the estimated completion date for the GAC filter installation is March. Please note that the monthly sample results collected thus far have been from water that has not yet been treated for PFAS by the GAC filters.

Natick is also planning to install additional seasonal/temporary GAC filters for the Tonka portion of the Springvale Water Treatment Plant. The funding has been allocated and these are roughly anticipated to be installed in early summer 2022.

For more information, please contact The Natick Water/Sewer Division at water@natickma.org, 508-647-6557, or 75 West Street, Natick. To receive important notifications electronically, please also consider signing up for WaterSmart at natickma.watersmart.com.

building picture 2-16-22

UPDATE - January 24, 2022

The Department of Public Works has received certification from MassDEP for the monthly PFAS testing results of the drinking water samples collected November 10th. The Springvale Water Treatment Facility sample showed a PFAS detection of 23.01 ng/L (or ppt), which is above MassDEP's MCL, or highest amount allowed by regulation (set at 20 ng/l).  The Town’s other two active water treatment facilities, Elm Bank and Pine Oaks, remain below the MCL. It is important to note that water from all three active treatment plants combine in Natick’s drinking water distribution system. The most recent quarterly average (Quarter 3, 2021), which determines compliance, remains below the MCL for all active treatment plants. The most recent sample results can always be found on the Town’s PFAS webpage at https://www.natickma.gov/DocumentCenter/View/11118/Current-Monthly-PFAS-Results.

UPDATE - January 6, 2022

Natick is in the process of installing Granulated Activated Carbon (GAC) filters, and a building to house them, in order to remove PFAS from the H&T portion of the Springvale Water Treatment Plant. Originally, the filters were scheduled to be in operation by November/December 2021. Due to supply chain issues, the project timeline has been extended multiple times and the filters are now anticipated to be in operation by late February, pending weather conditions.

The foundation, floor slab, and filter vessels are in place. All underground piping to and from the plant has been installed. Currently, the contractor is working to connect the internal piping and install the metal building. Once the building is up, remaining steps include internal piping and electrical work.

TIGG filters


UPDATE - December 3, 2021

The Department of Public Works has received certification from MassDEP for the monthly PFAS testing results of the drinking water samples taken October 13th. The Springvale Water Treatment Facility sample showed a PFAS detection of 21.02 ng/l (or ppt), which is above MassDEP's MCL, or highest amount allowed by regulation (set at 20 ng/l).  The Town’s other two active water treatment facilities, Elm Bank and Pine Oaks, remain below the MCL. The most recent sample results can always be found on the Town’s PFAS webpage at https://www.natickma.gov/DocumentCenter/View/11118/Current-Monthly-PFAS-Results.

It is important to note that water from all three active treatment plants combine in Natick’s drinking water distribution system. The most recent quarterly average, for every treatment plant, remains below the MCL. As compliance is determined by the quarterly average, Natick remains in compliance. Two more monthly sample results, for November and December, will be collected and analyzed before Quarter 4 2021 can be averaged and again determine compliance.

Natick is in the process of installing Granulated Activated Carbon (GAC) filters, and a building to house them, in order to remove PFAS at the Springvale Water Treatment Plant. This filtration system is anticipated to be complete and in service by the end of December 2021.

In the meantime, Natick continues to adjust operations in order to deliver the lowest PFAS levels to the most consumers. Natick monitors each individual well based on PFAS levels and continues to adjust the blending based on the most recent monthly results.  Most recent confirmed monthly results will continue to be available on the Town’s PFAS webpage.

During the time between the September and October PFAS sampling, 64% of the total water delivered to the Town was supplied from the Elm Bank water facility while 36% was supplied from the Springvale water treatment facilities.

When PFAS is detected in exceedance of the 20ng/L MCL, MassDEP advises consumers in the sensitive subgroup (pregnant or nursing women, infants and people diagnosed by their healthcare provider to have a compromised immune system) use bottled water for drinking and cooking of foods that absorb water (like pasta). Sensitive subgroup populations may also consider using alternate sources of water that could include in-home filtration systems such as POU (Point of Use) or POE (Point of Entry) treatment devices; however, please be aware that many POU/POE systems are not designed to meet the Massachusetts’ drinking water standard for PFAS6. There are systems that have been designed to meet USEPA’s Health Advisory of 70 ng/L for the sum of PFOS and PFOA, but be aware that 70 ng/L is significantly greater than the MassDEP drinking water standard of 20 ng/L for the PFAS6 compounds. Further information on PFAS in drinking water, including POU/POE devices may be found at: https://www.mass.gov/doc/massdep-fact-sheet-pfas-in-drinking-water-questions-and-answers-for-consumers/download

Natick also conducted a POU filter study with a contracted engineering firm, which had successful results and is now posted on the Natick PFAS webpage as well (https://www.natickma.gov/1753/PFAS), under Retail Point-of-Use Filter Study.  Please note that this was an independent POU study performed by the Natick Department of Public Works and it’s consultant, and it has not been reviewed or approved by the MassDEP.

If you are not in a sensitive subgroup, you may continue to consume the water because the 20 ng/L value is applicable to a lifetime consuming the water and shorter duration exposures present less risk.

Please contact The Natick Water/Sewer Division at 508-647-6557 or water@natickma.org or 75 West Street, Natick. To receive important information electronically, register for WaterSmart at natickma.watersmart.com.

UPDATE - August 8, 2021

The Department of Public Works has received certification from MassDEP for the PFAS testing results of the drinking water samples taken July 21st.  The Springvale Water Treatment Facility sample showed a PFAS detection of 21.18 ng/l, which is above MassDEP's MCL, or highest amount allowed by regulation (set at 20 ng/l).  The Elm Bank Treatment Facility sample showed a PFAS detection of 12.34 ng/l, which is below the MCL.

It is important to note that these resent results do not trigger any action or change of use from water customers.  Water from all three active treatment plants combine in Natick’s drinking water distribution system.  The most recent quarterly average, for every treatment plant, remains below the MCL.

Natick is in the process of installing Granulated Activated Carbon (GAC) filters, and a building to house them, in order to remove PFAS at the Springvale Water Treatment Plant. This filtration system is anticipated to be complete and in service by November 2021.

In the meantime, Natick continues to adjust operations in order to deliver the lowest PFAS levels to the most consumers. Natick monitors each individual well based on PFAS levels and continues to adjust the blending based on the most recent monthly results.  Most recent confirmed monthly results will continue to be available on the Town’s PFAS webpage.  August samples will be collected August 18th.

In total 91,847,000 gallons of water was supplied and delivered for the month of July with an average of 3.3 million gallons per day (peak day volume was 3.7 MGD).  46% of the total volume was supplied from the Elm Bank (Charles River) source.  52% of the total volume was supplied from the Springvale Facility.


PFAS PUBLIC INFORMATION MEETING

A public forum was held on May 26 to present information and discuss corrective actions taken.  At the meeting, Town staff and and a panel of experts presented information and helped answer questions.


Presentation Slides May 26 PFAS Public Information Meeting


Video Recording May 26 PFAS Public Information Meeting

Passcode: zL6?VSJd

UPDATE - MAY 4, 2021

Our first quarter of PFAS testing in 2021 (January, February, and March) resulted in two of our four active entry points (known as H&T and Tonka) exceeding the MassDEP maximum contaminant level (MCL) of 20 ppt for PFAS6.

Due to this quarterly exceedance, we were issued a Notice of Noncompliance by MassDEP on April 9, 2021. As required, we mailed a Public Notification (https://www.natickma.gov/DocumentCenter/View/11425/Public-Notice-FINAL-5-3-21) to all Natick customers on May 1, 2021.

During the Spring 2021 Annual Town Meeting, members approved funding for the first phase of the planned removal of PFAS6 from the drinking water. This funding will finance the installation of Granulated Activated Carbon (GAC) filters to remove PFAS6 from the H&T entry point to the drinking water system (one of the two active entry points that has exceeded the MCL). This new filter system and building are anticipated to be installed and operational by October/November of 2021. This will help by lowering PFAS6 levels in the drinking water while we continue to monitor PFAS levels and plan future steps to maintain these lower levels.


PFAS OVERVIEW

On September 24, 2020, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) announced the final regulations for PFAS in drinking water and continue to clarify how laboratory results should be calculated and reported.  The MassDEP press release can be found here: MassDEP link.  In October 2020, MassDEP promulgated a new drinking water standard for the sum of six PFAS compounds (PFAS6).  This new standard requires all Massachusetts public water suppliers test for PFAS.  The sum of PFAS6 may not exceed 20 nanograms per liter (ng/L), also equal to 20 parts per trillion (ppt).  Federal Drinking water standards do not currently regulate PFAS.

The Natick Water Division proactively sampled for PFAS based on the new state MassDEP regulation and Maximum Contaminant level (MCL) of 20 ppt. We began the process of initial sampling in November 2020 and confirmation sampling in December 2020 on all production wells and treatment plants serving our system. We are now taking monthly PFAS samples, which began January 2021. When available, the latest results will be posted on the Natick website.

With relatively recent advances in laboratory testing, the presence of PFAS can be found in parts per trillion whereas in the past it would be undetected in parts per million or billion.  In 2013, the Department tested for PFAS at the higher level parts per billion and found no detects. 

HOW DOES PFAS GET INTO MY DRINKING WATER?

According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, PFAS are a group of man-made chemicals that includes PFOA, PFOS, and many other chemicals. PFAS have been manufactured and used in a variety of industries around the globe, including in the United States since the 1940s. PFOA and PFOS have been the most extensively produced and studied of these chemicals. Both chemicals are very persistent in the environment and in the human body – meaning they don’t break down and they can accumulate over time. There is evidence that exposure to PFAS can lead to adverse human health effects.

WHAT CONTAINS PFAS?

    Food packaged in PFAS-containing materials, processed with equipment that used PFAS, or grown in PFAS-contaminated soil or water.

    Commercial household products, including stain- and water-repellent fabrics, nonstick products (e.g., Teflon), polishes, waxes, paints, cleaning products, and fire-fighting foams (a major source of groundwater contamination at airports and military bases where firefighting training occurs).

    Workplace, including production facilities or industries (e.g., chrome plating, electronics manufacturing or oil recovery) that use PFAS.

    Drinking water, typically localized and associated with a specific facility (e.g., manufacturer, landfill, wastewater treatment plant, firefighter training facility).

    Living organisms, including fish, animals and humans, where PFAS have the ability to build up and persist over time.

Certain PFAS chemicals are no longer manufactured in the United States as a result of phase outs including the PFOA Stewardship Program in which eight major chemical manufacturers agreed to eliminate the use of PFOA and PFOA-related chemicals in their products and as emissions from their facilities. Although PFOA and PFOS are no longer manufactured in the United States, they are still produced internationally and can be imported into the United States in consumer goods such as carpet, leather and apparel, textiles, paper and packaging, coatings, rubber and plastics.

WHAT IS PART PER TRILLION?

In order to understand what a chemical measurement means, one needs to have a basic understanding of the type of measuring units used, and what they mean. As mentioned above, most of our contaminants are measured using concentration units such as ppm and ppb.  But what is a ppm, ppb, or ppt for that matter, in plain English?

As an example, let’s use an example of liquid chlorine added to our water in the treatment process at 1.0 ppm. This value refers to one part of chemical (in this case liquid chlorine) found in one million parts of our water. To realize how small a value this actually is and how difficult this contaminate is to trace in the environment, read the analogies listed below:

One part per million (ppm) equals:

    1 inch in 16 miles

One part per billion (ppb) equals:

    1 inch in 16,000 miles

One part per trillion (ppt) equals:

    1 inch in 16 million miles (600+ times around the earth)

YOU HAVE BEEN NOTIFED ABOUT PFAS IN THE DRINKING WATER, NOW WHAT?

Public Education: Link

The Public Education Brochure provided to Natick water consumers on February 3, 2021 is a required notice by the MassDEP. We understand it is complicated and perhaps unexpected. The highlights may be summarized below:

  • The Natick Water Division proactively sampled for PFAS based on the new state MassDEP regulation and Maximum Contaminant level (MCL) of 20 ppt. There is no regulation or MCL set at the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) level. Initial and confirmation PFAS testing was conducted at all production wells and treatment plants serving our system.
  • PFAS exposure can occur from drinking water and many other sources in the home and some workplaces. We began the process of initial sampling in November 2020 and confirmation sampling in December 2020. We are now taking monthly PFAS samples, which began January 2021. When available, the latest results and updates will be posted on the Natick website.
  • The MassDEP standard is currently focused on the sum of six, out of thousands of PFAS compounds believed to exist. The six compounds include Perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS), and Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), Perfluorononanoic acid (PFNA), Perfluorohexanesulfonic acid (PFHxS), Perfluoroheptanoic acid (PFHpA), and Perfluorodecanoic acid (PFDA).
  • In our initial testing, all of our five water treatment plants have shown the presence of PFAS but the results indicate that only one of our four active treatment plants is above the MassDEP drinking water regulatory limit of 20 parts per trillion (ppt) for six PFAS compounds (known as PFAS6).
  • We have immediately taken action to minimize, to the extent possible, the exposure to PFAS by limiting use of certain source water with elevated levels of PFAS6.
  • PFAS as a chemical class are still considered an emerging contaminant and the ability to reliably collect and test for PFAS in the parts per trillion range (ppt) is relatively new and has challenging protocols. It will take time to generate sufficient data, confirm valid data, and interpret the results. PFAS is also the first time we as public water suppliers have been tracking a contaminant at the ppt level. Typically, water suppliers work with contaminants in the part per million (ppm) and part per billion (ppb) concentrations.
  • If you are in the sensitive subgroup (defined as pregnant or nursing women, infants and people diagnosed by their health care provider to have a compromised immune system), MassDEP advises not to consume water with greater than 20 ppt of the six PFAS substances of concern. You should consult with your health care provider for advice for your particular situation.
  • Using bottled water that has been tested as PFAS free is recommended for the sensitive subgroup to use for drinking, cooking foods that absorb water, and preparing infant formula. The MassDEP website provides this link to commercial brands of bottled water that tests for PFAS. There are also home water treatment filters capable of removing PFAS from drinking water for the countertop or under the sink. Treatment systems and devices are not specifically designed to meet Massachusetts’ drinking water standard of 20 ppt for PFAS6. There are systems that have been designed to meet the USEPA’s Health Advisory of 70 ppt for the sum of PFOS and PFOA. MassDEP bottled water and home filters link: https://www.mass.gov/info-details/per-and-polyfluoroalkyl-substances-pfas#bottled-water-and-home-water-filters-
  • The Town of Natick is ahead of many communities in the early stages of addressing PFAS and will provide updates as new information is available. Please sign up for email updates by signing up for Natick’s WaterSmart at https://natickma.watersmart.com/index.php/welcome
  • Natick Water Division has started to take the steps necessary to evaluate treatment options available to Natick to lower the levels of PFAS in the drinking water. This includes conducting several pilot studies to determine the most effective method of removal. The anticipation is that any permanent filtering solution, if desired, could take upwards of a year or more to complete.

Please read the FAQ section (link) for additional PFAS updates on this page as hopefully you will find these useful. If you have further questions or suggestions, please call the Natick Water Division at: 508-647-6557

WHERE DOES MY WATER COME FROM?

Natick’s drinking water comes from eleven ground water wells and the water is treated at four different treatment facilities.  Located throughout Natick, the four facilities are named Springvale, Elm Bank, Pine Oaks, and Morses Pond (currently off line).  Springvale is the primary facility and is comprised of two independent treatment trains known as H&T filters and Tonka filters.  The system of pipes that carries drinking water to homes and businesses is called the distribution system.  The distribution system in Natick is contiguous, one system all connected together.  The distribution system also has two storage reservoirs, one on Broads Hill and one in Town Forest.  The water that is treated at individual treatment facilities is pumped through the distribution system and is mostly mixed prior to domestic consumption.  Any excess water is stored in the reservoirs.  Depending on pump rates, time of day demands, and which treatment facilities are running, you may receive more water from one facility or another.  It is not possible to determine precisely which treatment plant is suppling water to your tap.  Below is a link to a map showing the well and treatment facility locations.

Natick Drinking Water Source Map

HOW CAN I STAY INFORMED?

To receive future updates regarding PFAS please sign up for the free WaterSmart notification program at: https://natickma.watersmart.com/index.php/welcome . This free water use tracking tool helps residents monitor usage, identify leaks, conserve water, and receive notifications regarding your water supply.

Specific questions may also be sent to water@natickma.org with “PFAS” in the subject line.