As a public water utility, the City of Brighton is committed to delivering safe, high-quality drinking water that meets all state and federal regulations. On June 15, 2022, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) lowered its interim lifetime Health Advisory Level (HAL) for two per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). Specifically, the HAL for two specific PFAS compounds, PFOA and PFOS, was lowered from 70 parts per trillion (ppt) combined to 0.004 ppt for PFOA and 0.02 ppt for PFOS. This new HAL for PFAS impacts thousands of water utilities and private wells across the United States, including Brighton. Brighton has been proactive in PFAS monitoring and as such is in a limited group of Colorado utilities that has both tested and confirmed PFAS levels above the HAL. The water sample results received on 9/03/2020 showed that certain PFAS chemicals, PFOA, PFOS, GenX, or PFBS, are present in the drinking water.
The CDPHE has stated “This is a concern, not a crisis. People do not need to stop drinking their water.” Brighton's drinking water meets current drinking water regulations. Brighton is partnering with the Colorado Department of Health and Environment (CDPHE) to continue to assess levels in our water, conduct customer outreach to inform and provide transparency, and work towards reducing PFAS levels in our water supply over the long term.
PFAS, or per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances, are a class of man-made chemicals not found naturally in the environment, and are associated with adverse health impacts if detected in high levels. PFAS refers to a group of chemical compounds that are used in a wide variety of products, such as some carpets, cookware, food packaging, and clothing because they are resistant to heat, water and oil. They are also found in foams used to fight certain kinds of fires. Once these chemicals make their way into the environment, many do not break down and they are very difficult to remove, including from public water supplies.
You can learn more about PFAS on the EPA's website.
Why are PFAS a concern for the City?
PFAS are called “emerging contaminants,” referring to one of several chemicals or groups of chemicals that have been discovered over the last several years to be present in a growing number of public water supply systems across the US. PFAS may enter water supplies from landfills, applications of firefighting foam (e.g. at airports, fire training facilities, petroleum fires, etc.), industrial sites, and wastewater treatment plant discharge. The City’s water supply comes primarily from groundwater and can be impacted by these sources.
Studies indicate that long-term exposure to some PFAS over certain levels may lead to adverse health effects including:
- Increased cholesterol levels
- Decreased vaccine response in children
- Changes in liver enzymes
- Increased risk of high blood pressure or pre-eclampsia in pregnant women
- Small decreases in infant birth weights
- Increased risk of kidney or testicular cancer
For more information see the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) factsheet here.
The ability to detect the presence of these compounds has advanced faster than the ability to understand their public health implications. Technological advances allow us to now detect concentrations in the parts-per-trillion (ppt) range (for some sense of scale, 1 ppt is the equivalent of a single drop of water in 20 Olympic-sized swimming pools). The scientific understanding and regulatory response to these compounds is uncertain but rapidly evolving. This includes potential public health implications.
Have PFAS been detected in the City's water?
Knowing that PFAS have been detected in water systems throughout the country and elsewhere in Colorado, the City of Brighton voluntarily participated in testing its untreated water supply in 2020 and 2021 and low levels of PFAS have been detected in the city’s wells. This does not pose a threat to the public’s health. As a health advisory from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the city is not in any violation. A final EPA regulation is expected in the fall of 2023, at which time the city will follow closely and ensure compliance.
What actions should I consider? What does this mean?
- This is a concern, not a crisis. People do not need to stop drinking their water.
- The lower your exposure, the lower your risk. People who are concerned can:
- Reduce exposure from drinking water by using water treated by an in-home water treatment filter that is certified to lower the levels of PFAS or by using bottled water that has been treated with reverse osmosis for drinking, cooking, and preparing baby formula. Use tap water for bathing, showering, brushing teeth, washing hands, watering yards, washing dishes, cleaning, and laundry.
- Reduce exposure from other sources. Visit https://cdphe.colorado.gov/pfas-health to learn more.
- Boiling, freezing, or letting water stand does not reduce PFAS levels.
- If you have specific health concerns, consult your doctor. An information sheet, “Talking to Your Health Care Provider about PFAS,” is available at https://bit.ly/PFAS-doctor.
What is the City of Brighton doing to address the situation?
While this is not an emergency situation, CDPHE has asked impacted water systems to take actions to reduce the chemicals in drinking water. We are working to address this problem in coordination with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and will continue to provide information about this situation. The city’s new water treatment will feature granular activated carbon filters that will remove PFAS, while also improving water taste and odor. The plant broke ground on July 26, 2022. Additional PFAS information can be found at www.colorado.gov/cdphe/pfas. For more information, please contact Sam Mingo at 303-655-2102 or firstname.lastname@example.org. If you have questions about this information, you can also contact CO HELP at 303-389-1687 or 1-877-462-2911.
In addition, the city is offering Brighton utility customers free water filter pitchers that reduces the risk of PFAS (Note: Filter availability could be limited based on supply and demand). To receive a filter, please email Liz Escatel at email@example.com.