PFOA Water Contamination

PFOA (Perfluorooctanoic Acid)

The municipal authority is mandated to provide clean drinking water to the community; therefore, three wells have been drilled to meet the demand. One of the wells is located near the Air National Guard base and the county airport, where a few industries exist. However, in recent water sampling, traces of PFOA chemical were found, confirming the contamination reports in Massachusetts and Vermont. Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) is a substance that is manufactured and belongs to a group of chemicals that are used in making commercial and household items that resist organic and heat reactions. PFOA is mostly found in water repellant clothing, fire-fighting foam, stain resistant carpets, and nonstick cooking pans. PFOA does not decompose easily, hence lasts for a long time in the environment and mostly in the water. Therefore, its persistence in the environment means that the chemical poses a danger to the environment and human health.

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Well Number Avg Day Production
Normal Operation
Peak Day Production
Normal Operation
Avg Day Production
Well 2 Off Line
Peak Day Production
Well 2 Off Line
1 40% 75% 45% 75%
2 40% 75% 0 0
3 50% 75% 45% 75%


PFOA Drinking Standards and Health Effects

According to Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA), PFOA-contaminated water is safe for drinking if the level is less than 20 parts per trillion (ppt). However, if the level is higher than the stipulated percentage, the water is unsafe for ingestion. PFOA-contaminated water has been associated with various health effects, such as reduction in birth weight, low immune system, high blood pressure, testicular and kidney cancer, high cholesterol, and thyroid disease. Thus, it is clear that prolonged exposure to the PFOA-contaminated water has serious health effects on human health. In New England, there have been concerns about PFOA water contamination due to the increased cases of cancer and other complications related to the pollution. The most affected communities are those living near military bases and industries that use the PFOA chemical. In essence, the confirmation of the contaminant in the water made the authority to shut down the water system and hand out bottled water to the community until the problem was rectified.

Sources of PFOA

The chemical is found in a number of consumer products, thus exposing people to its effects. However, due to the adverse health effects, several companies in the US have stopped producing the substance, although there are limited uses of PFOA. A significant number of people have been exposed to the contamination through the water. The contaminated water is usually associated with specific industries that manufacture the chemical or products that use PFOA. Additionally, the other source is an airfield where they use the chemical in firefighting. Therefore, in this case, the contamination may have come from the industries near the airport, the airport, or the National Guard Base.

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PFOA Treatment

Treatment of PFOA-contaminated water can be carried out to enhance the water. It is worth noting that PFOA is an organic compound with carbon-hydrogen bonds, which influences the chemical properties of the molecules, influencing the treatment’s effectiveness. There are various ways in which the contaminated water can be treated, and the most effective are the high-pressure membranes and the ion exchange resins.

Membrane Technologies. This method has two categories, including high-pressure and low-pressure systems. However, the low pressure is ineffective in removing PFOA; therefore, the high-pressure system is applied. The system relies on diffusing water through a membrane material where the reverse osmosis rejects not only the particulates but also the organic contaminants, thus having the ability to remove the dissolved salts.

Ion Exchange Treatment. In this case, there are two methods: the anionic and cationic exchange resins. However, given that PFOA contaminants are negatively charged, the anion exchange system will be more effective since it is positively charged; hence, making it effective in removing the contamination.

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