Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) in Reading's MWRA Drinking Water

You might have seen recent news reports about per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (together abbreviated as PFASs). These are a class of human-made chemicals typically associated with the manufacturing of non-stick coatings, waterproofing, and stain proofing treatments. They have also been associated with certain firefighting foams.

The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection is considering setting a standard of 20 parts per trillion for the sum of these 6 compounds:

  • Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA)
  • Perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS)
  • Perfluorononanoic acid (PFNA)
  • Perfluorohexanesulfonic acid (PFHxS)
  • Perfluoroheptanoic acid (PFHpA)
  • Perfluorodecanoic acid (PFDA)

The Town of Reading is and has been fully supplied by the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA) for its water consumption since 2007. The Town of Reading Water Division weekly collects and delivers to the MWRA lab more than 600 water system water quality samples for analysis annually. The MWRA additionally samples and tests the water supply and distribution system regularly both at the source, distribution system, and in all of their fully supplied communities, including Reading.

Both the MWRA and the Reading Water Department always go far beyond compliance by their dedication to improving all aspects of water operations, water quality, and the testing of the base and many other secondary contaminants that are above what is only required.

Test Methods

Using test methods that can detect the presence of these chemicals down to levels below a part per trillion (ppt), MWRA found evidence that some of these PFAS chemicals may be in our water at trace amounts, but at levels too low to quantify accurately. These PFAS chemicals are persistent and have been used in products we all use for decades. It not surprising, given those very low detection levels, that we found trace amounts even in our well-protected waters. MWRA will continue to perform testing and closely monitor developments in the science around this issue.

The MWRA recent test for 18 of these PFAS compounds, using extremely sensitive testing methods, detected trace amounts of seven of them, including five of those listed above. All were at levels too low to quantify accurately and well below all federal or state guidelines or standards, including those being considered by Mass DEP. MWRA is conducting additional testing to help determine what the source of these trace amounts may be.

MWRA Test Results

MWRA PFAS Test Results Page (PDF)

The MWRA tests the water supply each year for over 120 contaminants to ensure the water supplied is of the highest quality. For more information about PFAS and all other drinking water tests or if you have any questions about MWRA water quality, please visit MWRA's Water Testing page, which includes all of our annual and monthly test results, or contact them at 617-242-5323.