VOICES: Facing PFAS head-on

Credit: HUE12, LLC

Credit: HUE12, LLC

We often hear “Water is Life”. Is it cliché? Maybe a little. But think about it: We all drink water in some form or fashion every single day. It comes out of our tap, we use it to make coffee and boil pasta, if you get a fountain drink at a restaurant, the pop machine uses tap water. This is why understanding per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) and its effects are so critically important.

The main source of PFAS humans ingest is from drinking water. While PFAS are found in other things such as fast-food wrappers, bags of microwavable popcorn, waterproof clothing, and more – the primary exposure source is the same thing that is so critically important: Water.

Montgomery County buys water from the City of Dayton and distributes it to customers. Typically, the County relies on the city to send us its sampling results, however, in 2021 we took the unusual step of sampling the water we distribute for PFAS, just to be absolutely certain we are delivering the best quality water we can to our customers. We were the first distribution system in the state of Ohio to do so and we shared our protocol with area water systems and the Ohio EPA while coordinating with the U.S. EPA. Once the samples were tested and the results were returned to our office, we mailed postcards to every single Montgomery County water customer, sharing that the test results came back with our water well below the Health Advisory Level. Moving forward, we continuously monitor the City’s PFAS results, and we are planning to test our distribution system again later this year.

When we heard that there were high areas of PFAS contamination in Butler Township ground water, we jumped in to help coordinate the first round of free testing to eligible residents with private wells.

Over the last three years, we’ve invested more than $12 million into our water system for capital improvements and maintenance, repairs, upgrading infrastructure, ensuring water quality and more. The water rates you pay ensure that we can stay on top of our aging infrastructure, and that you have running water when you turn on your faucets.

Our team is comprised of hard-working men and women who believe in the critical right to clean and accessible water. We work in the rain, snow, heat and wind – and despite these unforgiving conditions, we hold the honor of working for you.

Sometimes, the forgotten piece in water quality is our water reclamation facilities. We also own and operate two wastewater treatment plants which are on-line 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Staff are always there committed to ensuring your sewer system is reliable. Our processes at each plant remove solids such as wipes, children’s toys, and substances like grease that should otherwise be thrown in the trash. Once that water is treated, it is discharged right back into our waterways to be enjoyed by all.

In 2022 Montgomery County invested $65 million into our Sewer Modernization And Revitalized Treatment (“SMART”) project to ensure that we continue to be there for you for years to come. These are projects that aren’t flashy. You may never even know the difference in your service. But that’s the point. We are here for you when you don’t even know you need us. That’s how you know we’re doing our job.

Water is life and we are here to know it, study it, understand it, and protect it the best we can.

Matt Hilliard is the Director of Montgomery County Environmental Services.

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