Water production halted at RWSA plant due to detection of “forever chemicals”

The government organization that turns raw liquid from the ecosystem into safe drinking water for Albemarle and Charlottesville has halted production at one of its plants after detecting the presence of what’s become known as “forever chemicals.” 

The Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority has temporarily stopped using the North Rivanna Water Treatment Plant after tests indicated low levels of PFAS. That’s a name given to a whole class of “per- and polyfluorinated alkyl substances” used in thousands of commercial products that do not break down. 

“Because of their widespread use and their persistence in the environment, many PFAS are found in the blood of people and animals all over the world and are present at low levels in a variety of food products and in the environment,” reads a website on PFAS operated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The EPA does not currently have standards on PFAS but there is a requirement in the Safe Drinking Water Act that municipal water producers monitor unregulated contaminants that present health risks. As such, RWSA took water samples in May for all six of their water treatment plants. . 

“Two PFAS compounds, perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS), were detected in water produced by the NRWTP,” reads a press release sent out last Thursday. “PFOA was detected at 25 parts per trillion (ppt), and PFOS was detected at 6.5 ppt.”

No PFAS was detected at the other five plants.

“We are making this infrastructure adjustment as a precaution to ensure we are providing the highest quality drinking water for our community,” said Bill Mawyer, the executive director of the RWSA. “We continue to utilize our multi-barrier treatment processes, including a granular activated carbon filtering system, to remove any undesirable substances from the drinking water we produce.” 

In the meantime, water from other plants will be pumped to the service area usually covered by the North Fork Rivanna Water Treatment Plant.

For more information on the potential health risks of PFAS and further research, visit the Virginia Department of Health’s website on the topic

Image courtesy of the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority

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