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State: Dozens of well owners in East Patchogue, Medford should have water tested

Suffolk County health officials are urging dozens of East Patchogue and Medford residents who use private wells to get their water tested for contaminants from firefighting foam and other products.        

Health officials are willing to conduct the precautionary tests at about 58 properties free of charge and are offering free bottled water while results are pending, the county health department said Thursday in a news release.

Suffolk, which detected perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS) in a nearby public well, is offering these tests after this or other similar potential carcinogens were found in communities from the Town of Islip to the Gabreski Aiport area in Westhampton Beach.

Unlike other sites being tested, however, "At this time, there is no known source of PFAS contamination in this area," the health department said.

PFAS stands for perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, a grouping of industrial chemicals that includes PFOS and a related chemical perfluorooctanoic acid called PFOA.  

The water quality advisory covers those with private wells in the area "bounded on the north by Jamaica Avenue, on the south by Montauk Highway, on the west by Buffalo Avenue, Pennsylvania Avenue, and the Swan River, and on the east by Sipp Avenue and Gazzola Drive." Those well owners should contact the health department for the tests, officials said. 

The public water supply is regularly tested, the health department said, adding any wells that test positive are taken out of service. 

"Monitoring by the Suffolk County Water Authority has shown that the concentration of PFOS and PFOA  in the public water supply in this area has not exceeded the health advisory level," it said.

The federal Environmental Protection Agency set its health advisory level for PFOS and PFOA in drinking water at a concentration of 70 parts per trillion, the county health department said.

These advisories aim to shield the most vulnerable, including fetuses and infants who are breastfed.  

People can be exposed to PFAS through the air, water or soil from industrial sources and consumer products. The chemicals also were mixed into coatings that repel water, oil, stains and grease, such as food packaging, water-resistant clothing and stain-resistant carpets, health officials said.

Drinking or cooking is the "primary" way people are exposed to PFAS if they are present in the drinking water, the county said, citing the state health department. "Bathing and showering are not expected to be a concern," Suffolk health officials said. 

Suffolk announced the new tests two days after a state panel missed a deadline in state law to recommend safe drinking level standards for the contaminants. Federal health officials have not yet set legally enforceable standards, known as maximum contaminant levels, for the "emerging" contaminants PFOS, PFOA and 1,4-dioxane.

Also on Tuesday, New York State announced $200 million in grants to help communities remove "emerging" contaminants from drinking water, including $14.25 million for projects at the Bethpage Water District and in Suffolk County to clean up chemicals found in firefighting foams and some household products.

To get their wells tested, residents should call the Health Department Service's Office of Water Resources at 631-852-5810, the health department said.

The analysis for PFAS will be conducted by the state Department of Health Wadsworth Laboratory.


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