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Human-made perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, commonly called PFAS, have been used in industrial applications and a wide range of consumer products involving cookware, food packaging, water and stain resistant fabrics, paper products and firefighting foams.
The use of products containing PFAS compounds is usually safe. However, accidents such as spills can result in PFAS entering state waterways. Recently, Connecticut media outlets have reported on PFAS compounds being detected in the Connecticut River. It is believed that these PFAS compounds entered the river through a spill of firefighting foam at Bradley Airport and by leaching out of an unsecured area of a landfill in Hartford. Fortunately, none of these events have impacted drinking water sources.
No Connecticut water utility sources its drinking water from the Connecticut River or any other waterway that can be used as a waste discharge location. The RWA's water is sourced from our 27,000 acres of protected watershed land. The RWA conducts a rigorous schedule of source water testing to ensure our water is safe and of the highest quality. We also go to great lengths to protect the natural spaces our water is sourced from, through an ongoing program of working with landowners to implement best management practices.
PFAS compounds are removed from the body very slowly, which can cause them to build up over time. Initial research suggests that exposure to elevated levels of some types of PFAS may be linked to health problems. Tests on animals have shown PFOS, PFOA and other related PFAS compounds to have impacts on the liver, immune system and on fetal development. There is also some evidence that exposure to certain PFAS compounds can increase risk of cancer, heart disease and disruption to the endocrine and hormonal systems.
There currently is no enforceable health standard for levels of PFAS compounds in drinking water. However, the EPA set a health advisory level as a guideline in 2016. Connecticut has a Drinking Water Advisory Level of 70 parts per trillion (ppt) for the sum of five different PFAS compounds: PFOA, PFOS, PFNA, PFHxS and PFHpA.
The RWA's state-of-the-art laboratory is currently the only place in Connecticut certified to test for PFAS compounds in drinking water. We have proactively tested for PFAS levels on multiple occasions. Our 2019 tests found that any presence of PFAS compounds in the RWA's source waters is well below the health advisory limits set by Connecticut and the federal government. We are confident in the safety and quality of our water.
The RWA recently completed a survey of potential PFAS generator locations within our watershed and aquifer areas to assist us in the identification of potential areas of concern should they lie close to one of our water resources. Identification of these sites will allow us to continue monitoring at the source for any increase in PFAS contamination. Should contamination occur, we will be able to intervene more quickly.