Potentially harmful contaminants found in local water sources

by James Tyler Ennis-

The NRV Regional Water Authority building in Christiansburg, Va., on Jan. 30, 2023. The building helps to supply clean water to the Christiansburg area. Photo Credit: James Tyler Ennis

Residents of the New River Valley need to be aware of potential unregulated contaminants in their tap water with recent reports of ‘forever chemicals’ in the nearby Roanoke River.

According to WVTF, tests from the Western Virginia Water Authority in December 2022 confirmed that potentially harmful ‘forever chemicals,’ also known as PFAS, are still present in the Roanoke River after the initial findings in August 2022. Polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are manufactured organic chemicals that have become pervasive in U.S. waterways. In fact, 83% of 114 waterways sampled by the Waterkeeper Alliance revealed at least one PFAS compound in harmful quantities.

Meagan Cox, a lifelong resident of the New River Valley, says she wants the local water authority to start testing for PFAS and other unregulated contaminants as a result of these verified findings so close to home.

“Sometimes it’s like, oddly colored, like it will not be as clear as normal. Like I normally drink tap water so I don’t really mind tap water, but just every now and then it has some odd aspects about it that makes me just not want to,” said Meagan.

Drinking high amounts of PFAS may have harmful health effects. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reported that peer-reviewed studies link PFAS compound consumption to reproductive effects, developmental effects, increased risk of some cancers, hormone interference, increased cholesterol levels, increased risk of obesity, and risk to the immune system. Once PFAS are ingested, there are no known ways to remove them.

Virginia has not issued any regulations on PFAS in drinking water. Additionally, testing for PFAS is expensive. Without state regulation and funding, PFAS are not often tested for or removed in municipal water supplies. This may be why the NRV Regional Water Authority has yet to conduct any publicly recorded PFAS testing or removal in the New River, the primary source of the NRV’s municipal water.

“When I talk to the public about making decisions about things like lead and bacteria, I say test and then if you need to, treat. Install something to treat the water,” said Erin Ling, with the Virginia Household Water Quality Program. 

“With PFAS, if it is a concern, it is challenging to test for both in the sense that it is expensive and that you may not be able to test for all the compounds that could be there.”

For any NRV residents concerned about PFAS or other contaminants in their tap, Erin Ling says they should use EPA-approved treatments to purify their drinking water. Activated carbon, reverse osmosis, and ion exchange treatments are all effective ways to remove PFAS. Activated carbon filters can be found in most stores and are the cheapest option, while ion-exchange treatments are the most effective. 

Water treatment systems for sale at Home Depot in Christiansburg, Va., on Jan. 30, 2023. Photo Credit: James Tyler Ennis

The NRV Regional Water Authority is filtering all the other dangerous contaminants, such as lead and bacteria, that are currently regulated by the EPA in Virginia. The EPA estimates that new regulations on PFAS in public water sources will be finalized by the end of 2023. 

%d bloggers like this: