Categorized | Ask a Question, Water Filters

What do I do about tetrachloroethylene in my water?

Well, I could joke that you could start a dry cleaning company because that’s where it comes from, but it is really no joke!  Just recently, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) started an investigation into the groundwater around Sandston, Virginia in Henrico County.  This means that tetrachloroethylene has been found in water in that area and the EPA is trying to determine the extent of the contamination.  It’s likely the contamination occurred years ago and is just now showing up in the water supply.  How did it get there?  Sad as it seems, it is likely that a dry cleaner just dumped it, rather than disposed of it properly.   The effects of this kind of action can last hundreds of years.

WTVR of Henrico County broke the story HERE.

Tetrachloroethylene (PCE) is also known as tetrachloroethene, perchloroethylene or  “PERC”, and is a chlorocarbon which is is a colorless liquid widely used for dry cleaning of fabrics – many call it  “dry-cleaning fluid.” It has a sweet odor detectable by most people at a concentration of 1 part per million (1 ppm).   I think it smells like chloroform.  It is  classified  as a Group 2A carcinogen, which means that it is probably carcinogenic to humans.  Tetrachloroethene is a central nervous system depressant and can enter the body through respiratory or skin exposure.  It is linked to many disorders, including a greatly increased propensity of Parkinson’s Disease as well as liver problems and  cancer.  In other words, it’s bad stuff!

The US EPA has considerable information on the contaminant on their WEBSITE.   Here is what they say about their regulations on tetrachloroethene:

In 1974, Congress passed the Safe Drinking Water Act. This law requires EPA to determine the level of contaminants in drinking water at which no adverse health effects are likely to occur. These non-enforceable health goals, based solely on possible health risks and exposure over a lifetime with an adequate margin of safety, are called maximum contaminant level goals (MCLG). Contaminants are any physical, chemical, biological or radiological substances or matter in water.

The MCLG for tetrachloroethylene is zero. EPA has set this level of protection based on the best available science to prevent potential health problems. EPA has set an enforceable regulation for tetrachloroethylene, called a maximum contaminant level (MCL), at 0.005 mg/L or 5 ppb. MCLs are set as close to the health goals as possible, considering cost, benefits and the ability of public water systems to detect and remove contaminants using suitable treatment technologies.

The Phase II Rule, the regulation for tetrachloroethylene, became effective in 1992. The Safe Drinking Water Act requires EPA to periodically review the national primary drinking water regulation for each contaminant and revise the regulation, if appropriate. EPA reviewed tetrachloroethylene as part of the second Six Year Review and determined that it is appropriate to revise the regulation based on changes in analytical feasibility.

If you are concerned with tetrachloroethylene in your water, you can wait for the government to act, or you can take matters into your own hands.   There are many viable water technologies that can remove this chemical, and hundreds or even thousands of others that can also potentially be in your water supply.   Granular Activated Carbon, Packed Tower Aeration and Reverse Osmosis.  It is imperative that you get a detailed water analysis of competing contaminants, like THIS TEST from National Testing Labs.  With a detailed water analysis in hand, a treatment solution can be confidently recommended.

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