On Friday, July 8, 2022, a communication based on a standard template provided by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) was sent out to Frisco water customers about PFAS. The communication was incomplete and alarming. Safe drinking water is the most important service that we provide in Frisco, and our lack of thoughtfulness and care around this communication requires an apology and the Frisco-specific information that you deserve. Again, we apologize, and right now we will provide you with the information that should have landed in email/mail boxes last week.
- In 2020, the Town of Frisco took advantage of a voluntary sampling project for PFAS through the State of Colorado; 397 out of the 895 eligible Colorado water systems participated, including Frisco.
- In 2021, the Town of Frisco pursued and paid for two more rounds of voluntary testing for PFAS out of an abundance of caution.
- All three rounds of testing in 2020 and 2021 showed that one water source, Well 7 (first used in March 2018), had levels of PFOA and PFOS between 17.2ppt (parts per trillion) and 16ppt; this was well below the EPA health advisory level for these substances, which at that time was at 70ppt and above for combined PFOA and PFOS levels.
- In late summer 2021, the Town made the decision to voluntarily pursue and budget for a design of a PFAS water treatment system for Well 7, despite the levels being well below the EPA health advisory levels at that point. The Town decided this was the right thing to do, as this is the most important service the Town provides.
- In November 2021, the Town contracted with an engineering firm to design a PFAS treatment system for Well 7.
- In April 2022, the Town received a $50,000 grant from CDPHE to cover a portion of the PFAS treatment design for Well 7.
- On June 15, 2022, the EPA issued interim, updated drinking water health advisories for PFOA and PFOS substances, replacing their advisories from 2016. This new advisory recommends that PFOA and PFOS levels be brought to below detectable levels; basically to zero. The EPA has indicated that they may issue a rule (not just an advisory) for all PFAS substances in fall 2022. Of the 397 water systems tested in 2020 across Colorado, about 120 systems are now considered over the new health advisory issued by the EPA in June 2022, including Frisco and several other water systems in Summit County. Almost 500 Colorado water systems did not take part in this voluntary testing.
- On July 8, 2022, the Town of Frisco sent out a standard template provided by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE), as there was a requirement to communicate the EPA’s new health advisory issued in mid-June 2022 and how it related to Frisco’s water system.
- On July 11, 2022, Frisco made the decision that the Town was able to stop pulling water from Well 7 (first put into service in March 2018), as infrastructure improvements to other Town water sources had just been completed. Well 7 will stay out of service, as long as conditions allow and until the PFAS treatment system is installed in 2023. If water conditions require, the Town would first move to strict conservation efforts before bringing Well 7 back into service without treatment in place, and water users would be informed if Well 7 was needed in the general water supply before PFAS treatment could be installed.
- In the summer of 2023, the Town of Frisco expects to install a PFAS treatment system on Well 7.
Frequently Asked Questions
- Why are there PFAS substances in Well 7?
Perfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs), which include PFOA and PFOS, are fluorinated organic chemicals. PFOA and PFOS have been the most extensively produced and studied of these chemicals. They have been used to make carpets, clothing (even GORE-TEX until 2014), fabrics for furniture, ski wax, food wrappers, microwave popcorn bags, personal care products, and other materials (e.g. cookware) that are resistant to water, grease or stains. They are also used for firefighting at airfields and in a number of industrial processes. Basically, PFAS has been and continues to be in many products that we use on a daily basis, and there is no way to know with 100% certainty why there are PFAS substances in Well 7. One possibility is that it may be related to the presence of a fire training facility nearby. A 2019 Colorado law banned the use of firefighting foam containing these chemicals for training or testing systems that suppress fire.
- What are EPA “health advisories” and why doesn’t the EPA just issue regulations for PFAS?
EPA health advisories are non-enforceable and non-regulatory and provide technical information to state agencies and other public health officials on health effects, analytical methodologies, and treatment technologies associated with drinking water. In 2009 and 2016, the EPA published provisional health advisories for PFOA and PFOS substances based on the evidence available at that time. The science has evolved since then, and the EPA is now replacing the 2016 advisories with new, lifetime health advisories. Basically, the scientific knowledge around PFAS is expanding and getting more advanced so the advisories are changing in alignment with that new knowledge. Subsequently, the EPA is considering regulations, rather than just advisories, for all PFAS substances in fall 2022.
- Why hasn’t the Town sent out a water bill notice about PFAS before now?
The Town has been posting about PFAS on FriscoWater.com since March 2021, when the voluntary testing results were made public, and Frisco PFAS testing results have been covered in the media several times since then. As we saw just this past week, water notifications often must abide by regulatory requirements and can cause serious concerns and alarm if not done thoughtfully and thoroughly. As Frisco test results indicated that PFOA and PFOS levels were well below EPA health advisory levels, the Town did not communicate in water bills and instead provided the information on the Town’s website and during Council meetings and recaps, which were widely distributed.
- Can I test for PFAS in my own tap water?
It is remarkably difficult to find a qualified laboratory for PFAS testing, which is relatively new and requires testing to the part per trillion. Please contact CDPHE at 303-389-1687 for more information about how to locate a reliable lab. There is also information about in-home water treatment systems on the CDPHE website.
- Can I still drink the Town’s water?
Yes. The Town takes part in voluntary testing programs like this so we can better assess water quality and make changes when needed. In 2020, Frisco was one of 397 out of the 895 eligible Colorado water systems to participate in this voluntary PFAS testing program, as the Town believes that knowledge, keeping up with current science, transparency, and planning are vital to safe and trusted drinking water. The Town will never pass by an opportunity to know more about our water and to make it better. Frisco has taken Well 7, where PFOA and PFOS substances were found, offline now that the Town is able to and plan to keep it that way as long as conditions allow and until the Town can install a state-of-the-art and thoroughly tested water treatment system for PFAS.
Also, water was tested at several locations around Frisco beyond source water, including in residential areas and in offices, and PFOA and PFOS were below detectable levels in several of those locations. The Town plans to do another round of PFAS testing in the next several weeks, as Well 7 is now no longer being used as a water source.
The Town will continue to take every step possible to ensure that Frisco’s water is of the highest quality. Treatment was not advised or required in response to voluntary PFAS testing, and the Town still took steps to start planning for advanced treatment once there was an understanding that Frisco’s water could be better.
Again, the Town of Frisco apologizes for the clumsy communication from last week, and we welcome questions and feedback- WaterInfo@townoffrisco.com and 970-668-9153.