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Water quality expert: Dayton chemical concerns demand monitoring, attention

A professor of toxicology and environmental health says Dayton and Montgomery County residents should expect regular monitoring and public updates about water quality in the wake of test results showing the low-level presence of potentially dangerous chemicals.

However, Rita Loch-Caruso, a professor of toxicology in the Department of Environmental Health Sciences at the University of Michigan, said it’s too soon to recommend buying new household water filtration systems as a cautionary measure.

Loch-Caruso said similar levels of PFAS have been found in Ann Arbor drinking water, where she lives, and she has not purchased a water filtration system.

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“It certainly is low,” she said. “I would say it’s something for the people and for the city to start to pay attention to, and to keep paying attention to.”

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“We certainly don’t know everything there is know about PFAS (polyfluoralkyl substances), and PFAS are a difficult group of chemicals to study because there are so many variations of them,” Loch-Caruso said.

PFAS is a substance once used as a firefighting foam at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. The chemical has infiltrated groundwater and prompted the shutdown of several Dayton water wells and has now been detected in drinking water bound for customers.

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Dayton and Montgomery County are sending customers notices with the results of recent testing of treated water leaving the city’s Ottawa Water Treatment Plant. The results of March testing show PFAS detected at a level of 7 to 13 parts per trillion.

Officials stress that level is significantly below the EPA health advisory limit of 70 ppt (parts per trillion) for lifetime exposure, but it marks the first time PFAS have been detected in water after the treatment process.

Loch-Caruso said that if she lived in Dayton, “I’d pay attention.”

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“I would like to see my city doing regular monitoring and publishing the results of the concentrations,” she said. “I would like to see a plan for monitoring — how is the city going to watch this?”

Michael Powell, director of the city of Dayton Water Department, said Wednesday the city has monitored the situation and will continue to test concentration levels.

“I drink it every day,” Powell said of Dayton’s water.

One part per trillion is comparable to finding one grain of sand in an Olympic-sized swimming pool, he said.

The discovered concentration levels “are right on the edge of the detection levels that the latest tests are able to detect,” he said.

In fact, they are so low, the levels are labeled by testing labs as “estimated,” he said.

Joe Tuss, Montgomery County administrator, said county leaders will work to coordinate with Dayton to make sure testing protocols are consistent.

“As the entity that has the community asset that is the well fields and water treatment facilities, we want to make sure we are working in concert with the city and certainly making sure they are taking the lead in any activities around this whole PFAS issue,” Tuss said.

“This is something that is really a relatively new issue for water systems around the country,” he added, saying he believes it started to emerge in 2014. “So this is a relatively new phenomenon.”

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