DECATUR, Ala. (WAFF) - The quality of the drinking water in Decatur is up for debate. Results from a nationwide test found the city’s tapwater contains chemicals you should know about.
An independent environmental group has released a new study that tested 44 cities in the country with PFAS chemicals, and Decatur ranked in at number 10.
However, Decatur Utilities maintains that the drinking water is safe.
The Environmental Working Group is a nonprofit organization that independently tests drinking water in cities across the country. Last year, they collected samples from 44 cities. The goal was to monitor levels of PFAS and an additional compound known as PFOA. The second chemical is a former ingredient in Scotchgard, which was manufactured by 3M.
On Wednesday, the Environmental Working Group released its findings.
Tapwater from Decatur had the 10th highest levels of PFOA found in the study at 24 parts per trillion. While that’s well under the EPA limit of 70 parts per trillion, the Environmental Working Group endorses a recommended level of 1 part per trillion.
Decatur Utilities spokesman Joe Holmes says recent tests have resulted in much lower numbers. He says “Tests for these chemicals (PFOS and PFOA) in our water supply have been non-detect, or at near non-detectable levels. The highest value in any recent test was less than 5 parts per trillion combined level for both chemicals, which is near the minimum detection levels.”
Tennessee Riverkeeper founder David Whiteside has been monitoring these chemicals in Decatur for years. He says Decatur Utilities is excluding some of the chemicals when it tests the water
Whiteside says the people of Decatur deserve greater transparency.
“They want clarification as to what’s in the water and whether it’s safe to drink and what levels of PFAS are in the water. City officials can no longer say the PFOS levels in our drinking water are nondetectable,” Whiteside said.
Holmes explained the discrepancy in findings is due to EWG testing for an unregulated chemical in the study. He said “In reaching its reported total of 24.1 ppt for Decatur, EWG added additional PFC compounds which are NOT included in any EPA health advisory, guidance or regulation. DU’s water treatment process does not ‘filter out’ PFCs. It does however address all contaminants regulated by the EPA and ADEM.”
Holmes added the city’s drinking water is safe.
Here is the full statement from Decatur Utilities:
"A report released today by Environmental Working Group (EWG) confirms DU’s previous statements that drinking water supplied by Decatur Utilities is completely safe and meets or exceeds all state and federal regulatory standards.
Tests for these chemicals (PFOS and PFOA) in our water supply have been non-detect, or at near non-detectable levels. The highest value in any recent test was less than 5 parts per trillion combined level for both chemicals, which is near the minimum detection levels. EWG’s test data reaffirms this, reporting 2.1 ppt for PFOS and 2.4 ppt for PFOA, a total of 4.5 ppt.
The EPA health advisory for PFOS and PFOA combined is 70 ppt for a lifetime of exposure at that level. The EPA advisory states “EPA’s health advisory levels were calculated to offer a margin of protection against adverse health effects to the most sensitive populations: fetuses during pregnancy and breastfed infants.”
In reaching its reported total of 24.1 ppt for Decatur, EWG added additional PFC compounds which are NOT included in any EPA health advisory, guidance or regulation.
DU’s water treatment process does not “filter out” PFCs. It does however address all contaminants regulated by the EPA and ADEM. Customers of DU can rest assured that the City of Decatur’s drinking water is safe and continues to be recognized for outstanding quality. DU’s Water Treatment Plant has been recognized as optimized by the Drinking Water Branch of the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM) Safe Drinking Water Program for SIX consecutive years. This means DU has reached a level of performance that exceeds the requirements established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)."
The Tennessee Riverkeepers maintain further testing is required.