DANVERS — The town's water is safe to drink. Danvers official are clarifying recent news accounts that its drinking water contained a potentially harmful chemical called perfluorochemicals, or PFAs.
Officials said Danvers' water sources were tested a few years ago and two wells did show traces of PFAs, but at levels well below the safety threshold outlined in a health advisory from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
The town said PFAs have not been detected at the town's water treatment plant in Middleton, which supplies the vast majority of water to both Danvers and Middleton from Middleton Pond.
A March 6 report in The Boston Globe profiled the discovery of PFAs in Ayer, in this town's well water located not far from Fort Devens.
The article mentioned Danvers in passing, among seven communities in the state where PFAs were found in drinking water supplies. The story says the chemicals were found in the town's drinking water, but it does not elaborate further on the findings. Danvers was not among a list four towns where levels exceeded EPA guidelines. The story looked at the lack of regulation around PFAs and the growing effort to regulate them.
A subsequent news report further spurred concern and generated calls from residents, Town Manager Steve Bartha said. That prompted the town to put out a statement to clarify the situation.
The Globe story had also pointed out that more than half of the Bay State's communities have not tested for PFAs.
A 2009 fact sheet by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says PFAs "are a group of chemicals used to make fluoropolymer coatings and products that resist heat, oil, stains, grease, and water."
The coatings are used in furniture, clothing, food packaging and nonstick cooking surfaces, and the concern is they do not break down in the environment, the fact sheet said. The CDC says health effects on humans from low-level exposure is unknown.
"The town has always participated in voluntary testing of our water supply for unregulated substances and compounds identified by the (Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection) and the EPA, such as those referenced in recent news accounts," said Bartha in the statement. "Our water system is staffed by licensed professionals who conduct water quality testing multiple times every day across the system to ensure the water we provide to our residents is clean, safe, and in compliance with all state and federal guidelines."
Bartha pointed out that the stories on its water were based on testing done in 2013 and 2014.
"In 2013 and 2014, as a requirement of the EPA's Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule (UCMR), the Danvers Water Department collected water samples from combined perfluorochemicals monitoring from all three drinking water supply sources," the statement said. Those sources are Middleton Pond, where the town has a treatment plant, and two wells that supplement the main source.
"The EPA and the MassDEP have a health advisory limit for combined PFAs at 70 parts per trillion," the statement said. "All testing completed in Danvers showed results well below the advisory limit."
Levels detected in Well 1 were about half the advisory limit, and testing in 2016 found the level in Well 1 at 30 percent of the advisory limit and in Well 2 at 7 percent of the limit.
"To date, PFAs have never been detected at the water treatment plant," the statement said. The town said it continues to monitor for this group of chemicals, and comply with federal and state regulations and guidelines.
Staff writer Ethan Forman can be reached at 978-338-2673, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @TannerSalemNews.