"Do Not Drink" water advisories issued to PQ Elementary in North Salem and Meadow Pond Elementary in South Salem
On Wednesday, the New York State Department of Health (DOH) and the Westchester County Health Department jointly issued a “Do Not Drink” advisory for Pequenakonck Elementary in North Salem and Meadow Pond Elementary in South Salem. The advisory was issued following the discovery of contaminants perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) in the schools' water systems at levels above New York's recently adopted maximum contaminant levels (MCL).
Last year, New York State adopted new drinking water standards for public water systems that set maximum contaminant levels far below levels that cause health effects. The New York State Department of Health says its maximum contaminant levels are among the most protective of any state. All Westchester schools with a well were tested; PQ and Meadow Pond were the two schools with levels high enough to trigger the advisory.
In a press release, the New York State DOH said that the “Do Not Drink” advisories were issued “out of an abundance of caution,” and noted that the State Departments of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and DOH were working to identify and address potential sources of contamination.
In a note sent to North Salem Central School District families Wednesday afternoon, Superintendent Ken Freeston said that the DOH had approved the district’s plan to supply bottled water to be used for drinking and cooking while it works to address the issue. The district will continue to use its well for handwashing, toilet flushing and cleaning. Freeston added, “we will next turn to our engineers and the DOH to design a filtration method to remedy the issue.” For public water systems that test above maximum allowable limits for contaminants, information on the New York DOH website said , “some water systems will need to make significant infrastructure upgrades to their water treatment processes and these projects could take several years to complete.”
PFOA and PFOS are part of a group of man-made, per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances found in a wide range of consumer products such as cookware, cleaning products, food packaging, stain repellants, and firefighting foam, among others. The United States Environmental Protection Agency considers PFOA and PFOS as having suggestive evidence for causing cancer based on studies of animals exposed to high levels of this chemical over their lifetimes.