The presence of PFAS in Cairo’s drinking water supply could have serious implications for residents and businesses now and possibly for years to come.
PFAS, or perfluroalkyl and polyfluroalkyl substances, are a group of contaminants, including PFOA and PFOS, that resist degradation and form conglomorates in the human body. PFAS have been linked to serious illnesses such as kidney and testicular cancer, thyroid disease, liver damage, preeclampsia and other conditions.
Cairo’s public drinking water is supplied by a well at Angelo Canna Town Park, which is fed by groundwater. Results of Cairo’s 2019 water quality report were released Tuesday, with PFOS levels of 8.37 parts per trillion before treatment and 8.51 after treatment. The water is treated with soda ash and chlorine.
The good news is that the report shows a slight decrease in levels from the 2018 report, in which PFOS levels were at 13.3 ppt before treatment and 11.3 after treatment. The bad news: Nobody knows what the long-term effects of these chemicals will be in people who have been drinking the water over five years. This is the length of time the chemicals remain in the body.
Delaware Engineering Project Leader William Bright discussed the findings with the board. Bright said the town is planning to drill a new well around 100 feet away from the existing well. We’re no experts, but 100 feet seems too close to the current well to make any appreciable change in the PFAS levels.
“It is the most productive site,” Bright said Monday, adding that the plans were approved by the state Department of Health.
Cairo has options, but they are limited, Bright said. Aside from finding additional wells, the town’s other options are to investigate hooking up to the village of Catskill’s water supply or treating its former reservoir.
And when it comes to treating the municipal drinking water at large, the town has four options, Bright said: Granular activated carbon, ion exchange, microfiltration or reverse osmosis.
Bright said the existing well does not have enough volume and the other wells that were explored were unsuitable.
Some options are expensive. Drilling a well alongside the Catskill Creek would cost an estimated $2 million plus an additional $300 per foot for the pipes to transport the water.
Much is at stake for Cairo. Broadband is important for growth but water is the lifeblood. If the town board acts quickly, officials might be able to restore faith in the town’s drinking water and keep Cairo on track for the future.