Sugarloaf Ground Water Information

Updated: July 3, 2018

BACKGROUND

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In the last two years SLFPD installed well and septic systems at both Stations 1 and 2. We recently sampled the wells for perflourinated chemicals (PFCs), in particular Perfluorooctane Sulfonate (PFOS). PFOS is used in many household products, including Gore-Tex clothing, ScotchGard, and food packaging materials, and in commercial products, including some types of firefighting foam.

The wells at both fire stations tested positive for PFOS, at levels that exceed the EPA Health Advisory.

Since the beginning of May, we have been working with the Boulder County Health Department (BCHD), the Colorado Department of Health and Environment (CDPHE), and the Environmental Protection Agency to learn all we can about the PFCs found at the fire stations.  Boulder County has graciously paid to test a dozen wells near the fire stations. Of the ten wells near Station 1, six had no detectable PFCs, the other four had various levels. Out of consideration for homeowners who do not want their data made public we will not be providing results from private wells. Two wells near Station 2 tested positive for PFCs, but below the
EPA’s Health Advisory.

Because the primary mission of the SLFPD is community safety, we have personally talked with the residents nearest the fire stations, and have sent letters to residents in areas most likely to be affected. A letter was sent to homeowners near the firestations to make them aware of the situation. If you live in the district and have not already received a personal visit or an individually addressed letter, we currently believe your risk is lower than those near the stations.

SUBSTANCES OF CONCERN

Perfluorinated compounds (PFCs) are a family of human-made substances that do not occur naturally in the environment. They have been used for decades as an ingredient to make products that resist heat, oil, stains, grease and water. They also are used in various products including firefighting foams, coating additives, and surface protection products for carpets and clothing. PFCs can also be found in certain types of food packaging, dental floss and cosmetic products. The main way people come into contact with PFCs is through food and personal care products. In fact, human contact with PFCs is widespread, and nearly all people have measurable levels of PFCs in their blood.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has not established national drinking water regulations for PFCs. However, EPA is evaluating whether to regulate PFCs as drinking water contaminants in accordance with the process required by the Safe Drinking Water Act.

EPA HEALTH ADVISORY

To provide residents, including the most sensitive populations, with a margin of protection from exposure to specific PFCs (PFOA and PFOS) in drinking water, EPA established health advisory levels for both PFOA and PFOS at 70 parts per trillion. When these two substances are found in drinking water, the combined concentrations should be compared with the health advisory level. There is very limited scientific information on the health effects of other PFCs, such as PFHxS, PFNA and PFBS. It is possible that other PFCs may have health effects similar to PFOA and PFOS, but there is not enough scientific information to be sure at this time. 

Health advisory level =
70 parts per trillion
or 0.07 parts per billion

How much is a part per billion or trillion?

One part per trillion = 1 ng/L (nanogram per liter)
This amount is equal to:
One drop of detergent in enough dishwater to fill a string of railroad tank cars ten miles long. 
One square inch in 250 square miles. 
One second in 32,000 years.

This illustrates that one part per trillion is a very small amount, and it only takes a tiny bit of a
substance to cause a concentration to rise to detectable levels.

What does it mean when levels of PFCs are higher than EPA’s health advisory value?

As a precaution the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (DPHE) advises individuals with private wells in the area to consider other sources of drinking water.  This is especially important for women who are pregnant, planning to become pregnant, who are breastfeeding, as well as bottle-fed infants.  Alternate sources of water include bottled water or water that is treated by a reverse osmosis system.

SOURCEs OF PFCs

PFCs are frequently used to repel water, oil and grease, and are found in numerous consumer products such as Gore-Tex clothing, ScotchGard, and food packaging. They were also used in some firefighting foam.

HEALTH EFFECTS (as listed on the state health department (CDPHE) website)

How can PFCs affect my health?

If you are exposed to PFCs, whether or not you may experience health effects depends on how much PFC you are exposed to, how long you are exposed, and personal factors including age, lifestyle and how healthy you are.  
 
Overall, we don’t know a lot about the health effects of PFCs. We know the most about PFOA and PFOS. Recent information has strengthened the link between exposure to PFOA and PFOS and developmental effects including low birth weight and accelerated puberty. Low birth weight can contribute to many long-term health and behavioral risks, including diabetes and obesity. Some human studies show that increased exposure to PFOA and PFOS might increase the risk for certain health problems such as changes in blood cholesterol, liver enzymes, and uric acid levels, which may be linked with an elevated risk of heart disease, liver disease or high blood pressure. Other studies show a possible link – but not a cause-and-effect relationship – between levels of PFOA and PFOS in the blood and thyroid disease, some immune system effects, kidney cancer and testicular cancer.
 
There is very limited scientific information on the health effects of other PFCs, such as PFHxS, and PFBS. It is possible that the other PFCs may have health effects similar to PFOA and PFOS, but there is not enough scientific information to be sure at this time.

The state health department analyzed historical data in the greater El Paso County area where PFCs have been detected and found no significant difference regarding low birth weight as compared to the rest of El Paso County. The department will continue to review health data in the area.

How can PFCs be removed from my water?

PFCs are not removed from water by boiling or adding chlorine. Certain treatments can remove PFCs from drinking water. One treatment that works is reverse osmosis, a type of filter which can be installed under your sink. Reverse osmosis equipment can be purchased at local home improvement stores.

WATER QUALITY TESTING

We are working with the State health department (CDPHE) Water Quality Control Division, Boulder County Public Health, and the EPA, to coordinate additional testing. On Friday, June 29, the Agencies met with SLFPD to develop a plan for which houses will be sampled next. Generally speaking, we will start at the fire stations and test out in concentric circles until we find wells that have low levels or no detectable amount of PFOS-PFOA.

CDPHE has generously agreed to pay to test additional homes. We are working diligently to get the next round of testing done as soon as possible, however the contracting requirements tied to this money suggest that this testing won’t happen until after August 1. 

Because PFCs have been used for 70 years, we may never be able to find an outer circle where all the wells have no detectable levels of PFCs. And because testing is expensive, we will not be able to test every well in the District.

You may decide you want to test your well before a formal testing program is in place. Testing for PFCs is specialized. There are only a few labs in the nation capable of testing for PFCs and it typically costs $400 or more. Click here for a PDF that lists labs approved by the EPA to test for PFCs.  If you decide to test your own well, please consider sharing your results with SLFPD so we can better determine the extent of the PFC problem.  

For more information on testing, view the document created by SLFPD, "Should I test my well?".

STAY INFORMED

We are committed to keeping you informed as this situation evolves. 

We had a public meeting on June 19, 2018 to go over the issues with the community. Here are the slides from that meeting.

You can email questions to our public information office at pio@slfpd.org or fill out the form below (both go to the same place). Include your name, address and phone number, and we will get back to you as soon as we can. 

RESOURCES

Learn more about PFCs by visiting the EPA website: www.epa.gov/pfas

EPA (2016) - Drinking Water Health Advisory for Perfluorooctane Sulfonate (PFOS)

EPA (2016) - EPA Approved Laboratories for UCMR 3

CDPHE (2018) - Perfluorinated Compounds (PFCs) and your health

CHPHE (2018) - Perfluorinated compounds - What do my test results mean?

CHPHE (2018) - Perfluorinated Compounds (PFCs/PFAS) and water - drinking and other uses

CHPHE (2018) - Learning about perfluorinated compounds (PFCs/PFAS)

USFS (2016) - What Is That Red Stuff? It is Long-Term Retardant

USFS (2018) - Fire Chemicals and PFCs

USFS (2012) - Fire Chemicals Talking Points

SLFPD (2018) - Should I test my well water?

For questions or comments, fill out this form to contact the SLFPD public information officer: