Dayton customers now have access to how much ‘forever chemicals’ are in their drinking water

What are PFAS chemicals?
What are PFAS chemicals?

City of Dayton customers can now monitor how much of the toxins dubbed “forever chemicals” are in their drinking water, as the data is posted online monthly.

The city is also one step closer to sampling its own water as opposed to sending it to outside labs for about $100,000 annually.

The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency requires all public water systems to test for the group of chemicals, known as PFAS, monthly and submit results to the state. The city has been meeting that requirement, and they share the results with water customers a few times a year or when warranted, said Mike Powell, director of the city water department.

ExploreCleaning up ‘forever’ chemicals in drinking water not easy task

However, Dayton recently changed that approach, deciding that it’s necessary to let customers know more frequently what’s in their drinking water, including the levels of the chemicals, he said. So whenever the city reports the PFAS levels to the Ohio EPA, the results automatically upload to the water department’s website, which has results from the past two years.

“Anytime we can give customers information that helps them to see the level of effort and work that we put into making sure that we deliver to them the highest quality water, we’re more than happy to do that,” Powell said.

Mike Powell, director, city of Dayton Department of Water. Contributed
Mike Powell, director, city of Dayton Department of Water. Contributed

Credit: EASTERLING STUDIOS

Credit: EASTERLING STUDIOS

Given the number of water systems in the region that have some levels of PFAS, posting the city’s monthly results could give customers “some piece of mind,” he said.

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances ― or PFAS ― can be found in firefighting foam, water-repellent fabrics, nonstick products, waxes, polishes and some food packaging, according to the U.S. EPA. Studies suggest that exposure to the chemical might affect pregnancy, increase cholesterol levels and cause some forms of cancer, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The contaminants are dubbed “forever chemicals” because the cannot be destroyed.

Dayton has two water treatment plants ― Ottawa and Miami. While the Miami plant is non-detect for PFAS, the toxins have been detected in the Ottawa plant. However, as of May 6, the PFAS level is 6.9 parts per trillion, well below the U.S. EPA’s recommended action level of 70 PPT. A part per trillion is the equivalent of a grain of sand in an Olympic-size pool or a pinch of salt in 10 tons of potato chips.

The Ohio EPA commended the city for posting its PFAS data online, saying it supports transparency, and encourage other systems to make similar information available for their customers. Cincinnati is the only other city in the state that posts PFAS data online, the Ohio EPA said.

The agency requires municipalities to include any detections from Ohio’s yearlong samplings of all public water systems across the state in their consumer confidence report.

The statewide sampling, which tested Ohio’s more than 1,500 public water systems for PFAS, concluded in December. Twenty-four public water systems in the Dayton region, including Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, detected some levels of the toxins. All but one public water system ― Aullwood Audubon Farm Discovery Center ― were below the federal recommended level.

ExploreDayton to test for ‘forever chemicals’ in-house, thanks to new equipment

PFAS data aside, Dayton is getting closers to testing its own water for the toxins, as opposed to sending samples to another lab, which could take up to six weeks for results. But in-house sampling with the Liquid chromatography mass spectrometry/mass spectrometry ― LC-MS/MS ― will take a few days to a week to analyze.

The city purchased the system for about $300,000, but it’s expected to pay for itself in a little more than three years, as Dayton spends about $100,000 annually to send water samples to outside labs for analysis. They also plan to generate some revenue by sampling other municipalities’ water.

Dayton’s scientists have conducted several tests in recent months and the results have been consistent, Powell said. The next step is for the Ohio EPA to validate the LC-MS/MS, which could happen in June.