Town of Blades moves in the right direction with installation of carbon filter

By Lynn R. Parks

A carbon filter designed to remove a contaminant that was found in municipal water in Blades was installed at the towns water plant on Thursday. Even though the state is still cautioning town residents against drinking the water, or using it in cooking or in brushing teeth, town administrator Vikki Prettyman said that just getting the filter in place calmed us all down.

We know that carbon will pull the contaminants out, Prettyman added. Once we got all that hard work done getting the filter and putting it in place, we all breathed a sigh of relief.

Two weeks ago, the town and the state announced that perfluorinated compounds (PFCs) were found in Blades water, in amounts above the human health advisory level established by the federal government. The state could not say how long the contaminant had been in the water.

The caution against drinking the water will remain in place until the state receives the results of tests of water samples that were drawn Friday, according to Michael Globetti, spokesman for the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control. Those results are expected to be in later this week.

The water remains safe for bathing and laundry.

Last week, the state tested water from two of the city of Seafords three wells. On Monday, the state reported that Seafords water is free from contaminants.

The city of Seafords public water supply is safe for drinking, cooking and other everyday use, according to a press release.

The state does not plan to test the water of any western Sussex towns other than Blades and Seaford, said DNREC secretary Shawn Garvin. There is no reason to believe that they would have the contaminant, he said.

Workers with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency are testing private water wells that are within a half-mile of Blades three municipal wells, all located near town hall. People in the area who have concerns about their water can call Rick Galloway, (302) 395-2600, to request that it be tested by the EPA. They can also leave a request at the Blades Fire Hall.

Since the announcement, Blades residents have been getting their drinking water at the Blades Fire Hall. On Feb. 8, Gov. John Carney authorized the Delaware National Guard to help distribute water in Blades. As of Tuesday, guardsmen were still at the fire hall.

Perfluorinated compounds have been widely used by industry for more than 50 years, in stain repellents for carpets, textiles and paper; in foam used to fight fires; in metal finishing; and as a pesticide. PFCs are an emerging contaminant, or a pollutant that is in the environment but that has not been controlled by the government.

They arent regulated and governments that test water supplies dont look for them. The state and the EPA decided to test the water in Blades because of the historical presence of several metal plating industries there.

No maximum contaminant level has been set for the compounds under the federal Safe Drinking Water Act. The EPA says that levels of PFCs above 70 parts per trillion may harm human health. Levels in Blades three wells were 117.5 parts per trillion, 96 parts per trillion and 187.1 parts per trillion.

The compounds have been linked with cancer, hormone disruption, high cholesterol and obesity. In a study that appeared in 2016 in Environmental Science and Technology Letters, a publication of the American Chemical Society, researchers reported that six million people in the United States use drinking water supplies that have more than the recommended level of the compounds.

On Monday, town administrator Prettyman had high praise for all of the public servants, municipal as well as state and federal, who pulled together to help the town.

Delaware towns including Milford, Bridgeville and New Castle provided equipment and materials to help with the installation of the carbon filter, she said. DNREC officials, who have been on the scene since the contaminant was discovered and who oversaw the installation of the filter, have been an amazing resource, she added.

Officials with both DNREC and the states Division of Public Health answered questions at a public meeting held last week, attended by about 160 people. Judging from the way the number of phone calls we are getting at town hall dropped after that meeting, I would say that they did a good job, Prettyman said.

Workers with the EPA are staying in town as long as requests are coming in to have private wells tested. And of course members of the National Guard and of the Blades Volunteer Fire Company have been really great, Prettyman said.

This has been an ordeal for all of us, she added. I dont know where we would be without all of the help that we have gotten.

For your information The town of Blades has posted a map of the area in which water wells are being tested for perfluorinated compounds (PFCs). To look at the map, go to blades.delaware.gov and click on Blades Drinking Water Contamination Issues, under News & Notices. Owners of private wells who want to arrange to have the water tested can call Rick Galloway, (302) 395-2600.

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