Dayton says they’re working to address PFAS, but won’t go into detail

Leaders of Dayton — the region’s largest water provider supplying drinking water to the city and hundreds of thousands of residents in Montgomery and Greene counties — say new equipment and testing procedures will filter out contaminants in the city’s drinking water supply.

“Dayton has the best water in the world,” said Dayton mayor Jeffrey Mims Jr. “And there’s a lot of work happening to keep it that way.”

But city officials won’t specify when that work will be done, and what they are doing in the interim.

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) — a toxic group of chemicals — were found in 15 local public water systems to be at levels exceeding guidelines proposed by the U.S. EPA for what’s considered acceptable in drinking water, a Dayton Daily News investigation found.

The largest of these water systems is Dayton’s. The city’s water passes through its two water treatment facilities: the Ottawa the Miami plants. Recent tests at the city’s Ottawa plant show results of more than 7 parts per trillion (ppt) of PFAS.

The Dayton city commission earlier this summer approved a $3.5 million contract with a company for planning and preliminary design work related to the advance treatment of PFAS. The design work will likely start this year and be completed in 2024.

City administration refused to make someone available for an interview for this story or let reporters tour the water treatment facilities. Nor would they answer emailed question. The city cited “active litigation” as its reason for not responding to questions.

The city two years ago filed a $300 million lawsuit against Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and the U.S. Department of Defense. The Dayton Daily News reported in March that the case was transferred to a federal court in South Carolina in 2021 under a statute called “multi-district litigation.” It was consolidated with some 10,000 other PFAS-related lawsuits, where little action has taken place.

Questions city administration said they won’t answer include:

  1. How and when will Dayton be able to reduce the PFAS in its water delivered to customers to below the proposed EPA threshold of 4 ppt?
  2. In the meantime, what has Dayton done to address concerns about PFAS contamination in the drinking water?
  3. Does Dayton’s water department ever administer water pitchers with filters to residents through any of its programs under any circumstances?

In response to questions, city administration only provided a link to the city’s webpage about PFAS and water, which provides general information.

Dayton city commissioner Matt Joseph said protecting the city’s drinking water against any contaminant is a high priority.

“Fresh water like this is going to become scarcer and scarcer, and that makes it even more important for us to do what we can to make sure that we preserve it in the best state we can,” he said, “And preserve it in quantities that can make a difference for the region.”

Read the whole project:

- PFAS detected in 15 local public water systems over proposed EPA guidelines

- Experts discuss how PFAS got into our water, and efforts to eliminate ‘forever chemicals’

- Dayton says they’re working to address PFAS, but won’t go into detail

- Concerned about PFAS contamination? Here’s 5 things you can do at home

- Health, infrastructure costs of PFAS in the billions; Who should pay for it?

County customers

Dayton water is purchased by Montgomery County Environmental Services to provide drinking water to other parts of the county, including Kettering, Centerville and Riverside, as well as portions of central and northern Montgomery County. The county’s environmental service agency does not have oversight over the Dayton water plants.

“Yes our drinking water is safe,” said Kevin Lavoie assistant director of communications for Montgomery County. “We have tested for PFAS in our system and continue to monitor the water quality.”

Montgomery County Environmental Services director Matt Hilliard said that to his knowledge, Montgomery County in 2021 was the first water distributor in the state to sample its water for PFAS. The highest sample result from the test was 10.9 ppt.

This is well below current EPA limits of 70 ppt but more than twice the EPA’s proposed limit of 4 ppt going into effect next year.

“Periodically, Montgomery County will evaluate and test our water distribution system for PFAS/PFOA, as well as other contaminants, to determine that levels are below the (health advisory level) and ensure that we deliver the best quality drinking water to our customers,” Hilliard said.

City commissioner: ‘I drink it’

A Dayton Daily News reporter last week talked to park-goers at Riverscape MetroPark in Dayton about water quality. The several people who stopped to talk to the reporter said they were not aware of PFAS chemicals in local water supplies.

Jeremiah Peters, a lifelong Daytonian who recently moved to Trotwood, said governments should inform their citizens of any toxic contaminant in the water system.

“That’s something that they should be telling everyone who lives here,” he said. “Everybody should know what’s in their drinking water. Know the risks of what’s there.”

The 23-year-old said testing for the chemicals regularly and working toward acquiring new equipment to filter them out of water are steps in the right direction.

The city does disclose PFAS levels in its annual consumer confidence report sent to residents. Dayton also updates its PFAS webpage with test results for its Ottawa water plant and has posted other information about PFAS and its impact on health.

“Dayton’s drinking water is safe,” Joseph said. “I drink it. We’re working to continue to keep it safe, protect it.”

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