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Change In Federal Standard Prompts Water Advisory

As the city contends with a new health advisory from the federal government, free drinking water is being offered to Summerville customers.
A tanker truck filled with fresh water is heading to city hall and should arrive tonight. It will be located in a parking lot in front of the fire department on Cox Street.
“Bring your own containers to fill up,” City Manager Janice Galloway said.
The water shipment is part of the city’s reaction to a phone call City Manager Janice Galloway received Friday afternoon from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
A water test from Raccoon Creek showed a slightly higher amount of two manmade chemicals called Perfluoroctane Sulfonate (PFOS) and Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA).
“[These chemicals] are used to make carpet, clothing fabrics, cookware, paper and packaging for food,” the city manager said.
The quality of the drinking water has not changed, city officials said. The advisory is part of changing standards from the EPA.
In the past, the acceptable standard was having less than 600 parts-per-trillion (ppt) gallons of water. The local creek water was 92 parts-per-trillion and within the acceptable limit.
Then in May 2016, the EPA changes its guidelines and suggests the new limit should be 70 ppt.
“Parts per trillion would be like one rain drop in an Olympic sized swimming pool,” said Carter and Sloope Engineer Chad Sipes.
People being exposed to these chemicals isn’t something new. They are found in a wide array of consumer products, including cookware.

The following is the city’s advisory on the new federal standards:

Click To Read

The advisory. . .

“What happened”
On January 30, 2020 sample results came back showing combined levels of PFOA and PFOS in the finished water from the Raccoon Creek treatment plant of 98 parts per trillion, which is above the U.S. EPA Health Advisory Level. In addition, combined levels of PFOA and PFOS in the Goodwin Hill Tankwere found to be 92 parts per trillion.
In light of the EPA Health Advisory, the City of Summerville, in consultation with the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (Georgia EPD). has determined that we need to notify you of this new information. update you on what it means and what we are doing about it. As more information becomes available, we will provide additional updates.

What are PFOA and PFOS?
PFOA and PFOS are fluorinated organic chemicals that are part of a larger group of chemicals referred to as perfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs). PFOA and PFOS have been the most extensively produced and studied of these chemicals. They have been used to make carpets, clothing, fabrics for furniture, paper packaging for food and other materials (e.g., cookware) that are resistant to water, grease or stains. They are also used for firefighting at airfields and in a number of industrial processes. Because these chemicals have been used in an array of consumer products, most people have been exposed to them.

“What is the Health Advisor Level”
To provide Americans, including the most sensitive populations, with a margin of protection from a lifetime of exposure to PFOA and PFOS from drinking water, EPA established health advisory levels at 70 parts per trillion. When both PFOA and PFOS are found in drinking water, the combined concentrations of PFOA and PFOS should be compared with the 70 parts per trillion health advisory
level. This health advisory level offers a margin of protection for all Americans throughout their life from adverse health effects resulting from exposure to PFOA and PFOS in drinking water.

“What are the potential adverse health effects with exposure to PFOS and PFOA”
EPAls health advisories are based on the best available peer-reviewed studies of the effects of PFOA and PFOS on laboratory animals (rats and mice) and were also informed by epidemiological studies of human populations that have been exposed to PFASs. These studies indicate that exposure to PFOA and PFOS over certain levels may result in adverse health effects. including developmental effects to fetuses during pregnancy or to breastfed infants (e.g., low birth weight, accelerated puberty, skeletal variations), cancer(e.g., testicular, kidney), liver effects (e.g., tissue damage), immune effects (e.g.. antibody production and
immunity), thyroid effects and other effects (e.g., cholesterol changes).
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. The health advisory levels are calculated based on the drinking water intake of lactating women. who drink more water than other people and can pass these chemicals along to nursing infants through breastmilk.


  1. Samantha Darden on February 3, 2020 at 7:46 pm

    Does this mean there will be some taken off my water bill that seems to climb about $5 every month. As a paying customer I don’t feel it’s fair to pay for the city of Summerville to fix whatever is wrong at the water treatment plant it should always be fixed no matter what with so many paying customers.

  2. Steve Gladin on February 6, 2020 at 11:24 am

    Why are you faulting the water treatment system for this problem? 92ppt was well within the 600ppt standard and most systems are designed only to filter out sediment and treat for bacterial contamination. These pollutants are man made, not natural. What’s changed is the long term health safety standard has been reduced from 600ppt to 70ppt. If you are looking for somebody else to pay, look to the entities responsible for polluting of Racoon Creek with these chemicals and force them to comply with the standard, then there will be no need for the water treatment system to change or charge more. Just be cognizant of the fact that these entities may find it more economical to close than treat to standard, and the jobs may be shipped to China where they don’t worry so much about industrial pollution.

  3. Terry on February 7, 2020 at 10:15 pm

    Mr. Gladden, you do realize that the standard CHANGED in 2016 to the present standard that has us buying bottled water until they can get the proper filtration system in place (which should have been in place to properly treat our water long before 2016!).
    While I will agree with you about other countries standards being far less than America’s in a lot of different and important health affecting issues, I will remind you that we are not a foreign country. Also, I am quite sure you are more intelligent than to believe The City of Summerville would close the plants rather than bring our drinking water up to a standard that was imposed in 2016! More importantly, we should ask them the question as to why have they not fixed the situation thus far, and allowing us to be exposed any longer than need be.

    • Editor on February 10, 2020 at 12:50 pm

      The EPA’s 2016 change was just an advisory. It’s not mandated. From what we were told, the State of Georgia does not require water systems to even test for those chemicals. We were also told the state EPD doesn’t even have the equipment that can test for these two specific chemicals.

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