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Watkins Glen water test results are back

WATKINS GLEN--In an effort to address public concern over local water quality, Mayor Luke Leszyk has released test results that indicate far lower concentrations of the PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) class of chemicals than initially reported online in uncertified testing. The question was raised when local non-profit Seneca Lake Guardian released test results in August indicating potentially high levels of the chemicals.
"I would like to see more testing, but I think (the village) test results should allay concerns (created by) the initial internet coverage of our testing," said Joseph Campbell, president of Seneca Lake Guardian.
Test results released by the Guardian showed tests for 14 different PFAS variants in Watkins Glen water registered a combined 21.0 parts per trillion in local water. Test results conducted by the village, however, showed results of 2.51 parts per trillion.
"We followed the protocols that the lab specified and were very careful not to contaminate the sample bottle. But obviously the testing Watkins Glen did is much more rigorous," Campbell said.
Campbell added the lab the Guardian used for its testing was not certified by the state to test for PFAS chemicals. The village's testing was performed by Microbac Labs, which is certified by New York, Leszyk said.
According to the village test results, 12 of the 14 categories of PFAS chemicals came back as undetectable, including PFOS. PFOA was detected at 1.46 parts per trillion while the chemical PFHxA was detected at 1.05 for a combined 2.51 parts per trillion concentration.
"Environmental advocates like us advocate 2 parts per trillion as the limit. We think there shouldn't be any of this stuff in drinking water, but it will be difficult now. There are so many of these compounds out there and they are showing up ubiquitous," Campbell said.
Despite village test results not being in line with the Guardian's, Campbell said he was happy the village performed the tests.
"I was impressed by how serious and how quickly (village officials) acted, and I don't want to call into question their methodology or anything like that," said Campbell.
Still, despite village testing showing considerably lower levels of PFAS chemicals than the Guardian test indicated, Campbell said he would like to see more testing done.
"Our lab was not certified, but the fact remains our test came out higher and it begs the question why that might be," Campbell said.
Fluorinated organic chemicals or PFAS were used in the past in multiple manufacturing processes along with being a component of firefighting foam used to extinguish petroleum-based fires. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, PFAS and other associated chemicals can be harmful and cause development issues during pregnancy, damage the thyroid, liver, kidneys, alter hormone levels and impact the immune system if exposed in sufficient quantities. In 2016 the EPA issued health advisory levels for PFAS and related chemicals at 70 parts per trillion in water. New York state is currently proposing an enforceable limit at 10 parts per trillion that has yet to go into effect.
"The village of Watkins Glen Board takes very seriously its responsibility to provide clean and safe drinking water," Leszyk said in his statement.

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