ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) – The Western Virginia Water Authority is working to reduce the levels of a chemical compound, hexafluoropropylene oxide dimer acid, in the Spring Hollow reservoir.
At Monday’s Roanoke City Council meeting, the Water Authority’s executive director said the department is increasing water testing and sampling at Spring Hollow, researching the connection and revising the existing filtration program.
The Western Virginia Water Authority found the chemical compound HFPO-DA, or more commonly known as GenX, in Roanoke County’s main source of drinking water. The head of public relations explained how the water agency first spotted it back in 2021.
“When we first found it, it wasn’t a regulated compound and didn’t have health standards,” Sarah Baumgardner said. “But we wanted to know where it’s coming from and what we can do to get rid of it.”
Initial investigations show that the compound originates from ProChem, Inc., which discharges it into the Roanoke River. During the most recent test sample, the Water Board determined that Spring Hollow had 30-50 parts per trillion of the compound in its reservoir.
“One part per trillion is about one second in 32,000 years,” Baumgardner said. “We’re talking about very, very small amounts here.”
The level of compounds found at Spring Hollow is more than 20 parts above the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) recommended level of 10 parts per trillion. The EPA issued a lifetime health warning back in June, saying long-term use of the compound could lead to problems with liver and kidney function.
“The EPA’s updated PFAS health advisory in June included a health advisory for GenX, but the EPA had no communication with the West Virginia Water Board,” EPA spokeswoman Terri White said in a statement. “The Virginia Department of Health has been working with the WVWA on GenX as the primary drinking water agency for the past few weeks.”
The Water Authority has been working with the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and the Department of Health during the ongoing investigation.
“[The Department of Environmental Quality] will continue to search for the connection in nearby waters and will share further information with all interested parties as it becomes available,” DEQ spokeswoman Irina Calos said in a statement. “We appreciate the water authority’s diligence in ensuring the availability of safe drinking water for customers.”
Baumgardner explained how the water authority regularly tests the reservoir water.
“We received the results of our testing in early October and so far the finished drinking water we are shipping to our customers is around 8.4 parts per trillion, so under 10 [parts per trillion] new standard set by the EPA,” said Baumgardner.
The work to remove the chemical compound is estimated to cost the Water Authority $1,000,000 per year.
“I don’t think this will have a significant impact on rates, but it needs to be factored into our rates,” said Executive Director Mike McEvoy.
Back in October, the Water Authority sent a letter to Prochem, Inc. asking it to stop launching GenX. This is still an active investigation.
Roanoke County and parts of Franklin County have received drinking water from Carvin’s Cove while the water board works to get rid of the chemical in Spring Hollow.
However, the executive director told Monday’s city council meeting that despite the water content of the compound from Spring Hollow, the water is still safe to drink.
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