According to two studies from 2013 and 2014 that the Arundel Patriot reviewed on Tuesday, Annapolis City water did not show levels of the two contaminants, perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), which were found in the Aquia aquifer in the Broadneck area of unincorporated Annapolis near Bay Head Park in a March 2018 Department of Defense study.
The City of Annapolis drinking water is pumped from three aquifers, the Magothy and the Upper and Lower Patapsco. Water moves though encased piping to prevent contamination according to James M. FitzGerald, Water Plant Superintendent in the Annapolis Department of Public Works.
FitzGerald said that the 2013 and 2014 tests were taken from treated water at the Annapolis water treatment plant. The test were done to comply with EPA regulations to periodically test for various “unregulated contaminants”. There are no plans for future tests for PFOS/PFOA because every five years, different unregulated contaminants are tested. FitzGerald said that the City will continue to test the water in accordance with EPA guidelines.
The DoD study tested groundwater supplies on the Broadneck Peninsula in an area of a former Naval Weapons testing facility. Sixty-eight wells were tested in the Aquia aquifer according to Ed Zeigler, Director of Public Affairs for the Naval District, Washington. The Aquia is the most shallow aquifer in the region and supplies well water to private residences. Fifty-four wells showed concentrations of PFOS/PFOA were between 70 ppt (the upper limit of the EPA’s Lifetime Health Advisory levels (LHA)) and 70,000 ppt, which is 1000 times the EPA lifetime limit levels. (The Arundel Patriot is continuing to investigate how many wells currently pump water from the Aquia aquifer to private homes in the County)
According to David Jarrell, the Director of Public Works for the City of Annapolis, there are no residents on well water within the incorporated boundaries of the City of Annapolis.
Private wells in neighborhoods in unincorporated areas of Annapolis such as Bay Ridge, St. Margaret’s and Hillsmere are not required to be tested for PFOSA and PFOA. The EPA at this time has not designated PFOS/PFOA chemicals with a Maximum Contaminant Level designation (MCL) in drinking water. Therefore there are no standards for the County to follow or to be forced to comply with for the case of these man-made contaminants.
Jarrell said that the City had not been contacted by the Department of Defense, the Environmental Protection Agency or the Maryland Department of the Environment in regards to the March DoD report.
Annapolis Public Information Officer Susan O’Brian said that the Annapolis City Water treatment facilities use standard methods required to treat water from the three aquifers, and that reverse osmosis, ionization or carbon filtration systems are not required or necessary as the water passes EPA testing.
PFOS and PFOA are products of industrial processes and are known to bioaccumulate in humans and wildlife and have been found to be detrimental to human health including cancer and birth defects. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), PFOS and PFOA are extremely persistent in the environment and cannot be mitigated by standard water treatment methods.
PFOS/PFOA were developed in the 1970s and used in many industrial and consumer products to make the products resist heat, stains, water, and grease. Examples include Teflon cookware, waterproofing fabric, carpeting and coating on fast food wrappers. On military bases, the most common use is in firefighting foams at airfields and in other industrial processes. The chemicals are sprayed to put out fires and then washed off with water into the environment, sometimes stored in leaky containers, or even dumped into the environment.
According to the DoD report, limited human studies show PFOS and PFOA may be associated with developmental delays in fetuses and children, decreased fertility, increased cholesterol, changes to the immune system, increased uric acid levels, changes in liver enzymes, as well as prostate, kidney, and testicular cancers.
Vicky Bruce is the editor and co-founder of The Arundel Patriot. She is a science journalist and investigative reporter with a Master’s degree in Geology and Geochemistry. She lives in Anne Arundel County.
Carmen Skarlupka contributed to this report.
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The Arundel Patriot is asking for citizen experts and journalists to help investigate this ongoing story into area groundwater contamination and human and environmental health. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you can help. And please donate to our publication to help us continue our mission of bringing you important citizen journalism.
If you live in the Broadneck Peninsula and are having your water tested for PFOS and PFOA contaminants, the Arundel Patriot would like to see the results to incorporate into our investigation.