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Though Blades PFCs considered "low risk", officials will begin testing nearby private wells

Katie Peikes
Delaware Public Media
Blades residents listen as state officials give them an update on their water.

State officials were in the Town of Blades Tuesday night, updating residents on the drinking water situation and answering their questions.

Officials from Delaware’s Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control and the Division of Public Health are working with the Environmental Protection Agency on testing private wells in the surrounding area about a half mile away from Blades’ corporate limits to see if there are high levels of PFCs present there as well.

DNREC Secretary Shawn Garvin said his department takes the issue very seriously and is continuing to have a dialogue with Blades residents. Residents asked DNREC and DPH about the health risks PFCs pose to themselves and their pets, as well as if PFCs could migrate outside of the area over time.

“That’s part of what the longer term look is –  to establish where they are, where they might migrate, what the flow of groundwater is,” Garvin said. “Our first and foremost concern is addressing the immediate issue...”

Though the levels of PFCs found in the town’s water are above the EPA’s health advisory of 70 parts per trillion, Delaware’s Division of Public Health considers them to be low risk, said Jamie Mack,  the Division of Public Health’s Acting Section Chief for Health Systems Protection. One of the wells came back with PFCs at nearly 190 ppt.

“We don’t expect there to be a lot of long term health effects we would see specifically to these chemicals,” Mack said. “We’re just taking the actions we are out of abundance of caution.”

The biggest concern, he said, is ingesting large amounts of these compounds over time. That can lead to health problems like cancer and immune system impacts.

Dover resident Jeannie Anderson said her granddaughter goes to Blades Elementary and has been complaining of headaches and stomachaches for a while now. Anderson says she wonders if that has to do with the water, and she’s concerned about the schoolchildren.

“They’re saying it’s like one little drop in a swimming pool,” said Anderson, regarding the state’s comparison of the levels of PFCs and the health risks. “But when it affects your family, it’s 100 percent, it’s not one drop in a big swimming pool. That’s what I’m concerned about.”

DNREC tested Blades' three municipal wells looking for the emerging contaminant because of nearby  plating operations that historically used PFCs. When officials got the tests back last week, they worked to immediately notify residents.

Officials say residents will be unable to drink their tap water for about another week to 10 days, as they install and test a carbon filter system to remove PFCs from the water. State officials and the Delaware National Guard continue to provide bottled water from water tanks to residents.

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