Tuesday, July 25, 2023

Water, water, everywhere….is it safe to drink?!??


With water water everywhere, municipalities in the Adirondacks never gave it a second thought. To supply their people with tap water, they simply laid a pipe to the nearest lake or pond and never gave it another thought.

Today, governments fear these surface waters are vulnerable to contamination, believing drilled municipal wells are a safer alternative. But residents are complaining that safer doesn’t necessarily mean better. Adirondack geology is such that above-ground water tastes better and is easier on appliances than below-ground water.

The issue became contentious in Tupper Lake recently, where the Adirondack Enterprise reported that 80 people attended a public meeting frustrated with high concentrations of iron in their water.

The meeting was reminiscent of similar meetings in Ticonderoga, where the town, under court order, drilled wells to replace a drinking water supply taken from Gooseneck Pond. Those wells produced water of off-the-charts hardness, which residents said tasted awful and destroyed their water heaters, dishwasher and coffee pots.

In both Tupper and Ticonderoga, some residents said they buy bottled water because the municipal water is so awful.

Government regulations care only about safety, not quality, so in the eyes of the law nothing is wrong. That’s frustrated residents, some of whom say that they’d rather take their chances with vague health threats from pond or lake water than pay for water that’s too distasteful to drink.

PFAS in tap water

If this doesn’t get you depressed enough about tap water, there’s more: According to a new U.S. Geological Survey, at least 45% of the nation’s tap water is estimated to have one or more types of the chemicals known as per- and polyfluorinated alkyl substances, or PFAS.

And the reality may be worse. There are more than 12,000 types of PFAS, popularly known as “forever chemicals,” not all of which can be detected with current tests; the USGS study tested for the presence of 32 types.

PFAS are a group of synthetic chemicals used in a wide variety of common applications, from the linings of fast-food boxes and non-stick cookware to fire-fighting foams and other purposes. High concentrations of some PFAS may lead to adverse health risks in people, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.This USGS research marks the first time anyone has tested for and compared PFAS in tap water from both private and government-regulated public water supplies on a broad scale throughout the country.

The survey results can be found here.

Advocates of drawing water from Gooseneck Pond in Ticonderoga make their feelings known. Photo by Tim Rowland

This first appeared in the weekly “Water Line” newsletter. Click here to sign up.

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Tim Rowland is a humor columnist for Herald-Mail Media in Hagerstown, Md., and a New York Times bestselling author. His books include High Peaks; A History of Hiking the Adirondacks from Noah to Neoprene and Strange and Unusual Stories of New York City. He has climbed the 46 high peaks, is an avid bicyclist, and trout tremble with fear when they see his approaching shadow. He and his wife Beth are residents of Jay, N.Y.


5 Responses

  1. They talk more about Ticonderoga than Tupper Lake what is wrong with the water is a sin and when I was living in Tupper Lake it was always a great tasting tap water what happened to it in the last 10 years I have family still there it worries me.

  2. Spruce says:

    That is a real e-mail

    • Worth Gretter says:

      My wife has a tee shirt that says “I’m so old that I still use complete sentences AND punctuation”!

  3. Paul says:

    If you look at the study the main conclusion is they don’t have enough data to really what is going on. So I think the title here is a bit alarmist.

  4. Wayne Miller says:

    Actually, the EPA continues to lower it’s advisory levels for PFAS as testing for them improves. It is now finalizing a rule that will limit the two legacy ‘forever chemicals’ (PFOA & PFOS) to way less than one part per trillion. That’s less than one drop in an Olympic swimming pool.

    As for safety, FDA says there is no proof that there is an amount below which exposure is safe.

    The biggest stink should be reserved for waste water treatment plant biosolids (sewer sludge), including human waste from out of state and Canada being spread on NY farmland. Every test of sludge has revealed high levels of PFAS. And recent U of Miami research of many brands of toilet paper skow they all have a precursor chemical that becomes a PFAS.

    For a home grown study that I coauthored, go to the Sierra Club’s Atlantic Chapter website

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