City officials: Water is safe to drink

Published 11:45 am Thursday, September 28, 2023

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The water in LaGrange is safe to drink, according to city officials.

A recently publicized EPA report indicated that LaGrange was one of 11 water systems in Georgia that tested positive for trace amounts of per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).

The chemicals are sometimes called “forever chemicals” due to their ability to resist breakdown in the environment and in our bodies.

Although the water in LaGrange did test positive for the potentially harmful chemicals, they did so in extremely trace amounts, around 4 parts per trillion.

Water Superintendent Jason Clifton described the amount as the equivalent of a drop in 20 Olympic-sized swimming pools.

Clifton said the current concentrations measured are well below suspected negative health effects and do not violate any proposed EPA rules.

The water samples were submitted as part of a testing program called Uncontrolled Contaminant Monitoring, where the EPA looks at contaminants that could potentially be regulated in the future.

Utilities Director Patrick Bowie said that PFAS are everywhere. PFAS are almost impossible to avoid. They’re found in our homes, offices,  supermarkets and even the air.

“It’s in the nonstick pans you cook with. It’s in the packaging that you buy food. It’s a very common chemical that has been used for decades, so it’s not just in the water,” Bowie said.

Clifton said the publicized report was based on first-quarter testing. Quarter three numbers are well below proposed EPA requirements, he said.

“The amounts that we detected are extremely, extremely low and didn’t even exceed the requirements of the quarter-three sampling. We just want customers and the council to understand that and we are being proactive,” Bowie said.

“We’re working with engineers to come up with some solutions going forward. There’s some federal money that’s going to be available that we’ll be pursuing and looking at to hopefully pay for some of this because it is going to be extremely expensive,” Bowie said.

Bowie said he doesn’t know if a commercially available water filter could even filter out the PFAS due to their extremely low concentration.

“You’ve got to have a very sophisticated measuring device to even detect them,” he said.

Bowie indicated that the EPA doesn’t even know if PFAS are harmful at the levels that were measured.

“If you go to the EPA website, and we encourage customers to do their own research, Google’s a wonderful thing. It’ll tell you the EPA says we don’t know at this point,” Bowie said.

Bowie said that he believes the water is safe he and his grandchildren are still drinking it.

“It’s better than Coca-Cola, I promise you,” he said.