Levels of so-called ‘forever chemicals’ were detected in two of 18 private wells the State of Ohio sampled this month in an effort to determine how widespread the contamination is in the community surrounding Aullwood Audubon Farm Discovery Center in Dayton, officials told the Dayton Daily News on Saturday.
The state sampled the 18 wells after it detected high levels of the group of cancer-causing chemicals known as PFAS in Aullwood’s drinking water system. The wells are among 180 that health officials urged homeowners to test for the toxins shortly after they were detected at Aullwood.
In an exclusive interview with the Daily News, officials from the Ohio Department of Health and Gov. Mike DeWine’s office said the levels of PFAS detected in the two wells are below the Environmental Protection Agency’s action level of 70 parts per trillion. A part per trillion is the equivalence of a grain of sand in an Olympic-size pool or a pinch of salt in 10 tons of potato chips.
The officials declined to say how much PFAS was detected in both wells, because doing so could reveal the homeowners’ health conditions, given the fact that they may have been drinking the water for a while, said Lance Himes, ODH’s senior deputy director. However, he said, the level of the toxins in one well is less than half the action level and just more than half in the second well.
Exposure to PFAS or ― per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances ― can affect pregnancy, increase cholesterol levels and cause some forms of cancer, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Infants and children, pregnant and nursing women, and those who have a compromised immune system might be at a higher risk of health effects from PFAS exposure, health officials said.
Aullwood’s drinking water system is among 1,553 public water systems the Ohio EPA tested in 2020 as part of its PFAS action plan. The center’s system, which has PFAS levels of 96 ppt, was one of two in the state with PFAS levels that exceed 70 ppt. Twenty-four other water systems across Southwest Ohio had levels of the contaminants below 70 ppt.
ODH has sent letters to homeowners whose wells are contaminated with PFAS, Hime said. In the letters, Agency officials explained the test results, information about PFAS, the health risks and treatment options, he said.
The state is working on a plan to collect additional samplings to get a better idea of how widespread PFAS is in the area and determine the next action step, he said.