Issaquah is now pumping from Well 4, thanks to a new filtration system that removes perfluorochemicals, or PFCs, from the water before it enters the City's distribution system.
Monthly test results show the system is working – there are no detections of PFCs from Well 4.
Issaquah participates in the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) unregulated monitoring program by performing additional tests on our drinking water.
During that testing, detections of PFCs, were found in Well 4, the City's smallest well. In the winter of 2016, the City stopped running Well 4 until the filtration system was installed and tested.
Issaquah meets all standards set for safe drinking water.
Based on the latest science, the EPA recently released drinking water health advisories (which are not enforceable or regulated) on two PFCs, called PFOA and PFOS. Issaquah water at the tap meets these advisories.
Meanwhile, more stringent testing has been conducted to better understand the potential sources of PFCs in Issaquah. Except for Well 4 (before treatment), all of Issaquah's wells have tested below EPA's detection threshold for PFCs. Trace amounts were found in a neighboring well (Well 5) that are even below levels defined by EPA as an actual detection.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are PFCs?
Perfluorinated chemicals, or PFCs, are a diverse group of compounds resistant to heat, water and oil. For decades, they have been used in hundreds of industrial applications and consumer products such as carpeting, clothing, upholstery, food paper wrappings, fire-fighting foams and metal plating.
PFCs have been found at very low levels both in the environment and in the blood samples of the general U.S. population.
Learn more from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) online.
Is Issaquah's water safe to drink?
Yes. Issaquah meets all standards set for safe drinking water.
What if I have health concerns?
According to the EPA, these chemicals can have an impact on the development of fetuses and breastfed or formula-fed infants. While no PFCs are currently detected in Issaquah's water system, if you are concerned about potential health effects from exposure to PFCs, contact your doctor or health care professional.
Do I receive water from wells, other sources or both?
View our online map (PDF).
What are the experts hired by the City studying?
HDR and Golder Associates, internationally-known experts in water systems, are studying:
- The complex hydrogeology of our area
- The relationship between the City's wells
- Issaquah's water system operations
- Potential next steps for the long term
What might be the source of the PFCs?
The City is working closely with the state Department of Health (DOH), EPA and the City's consultants to study the possible sources of the PFC contamination.
Is the City running Well 4?
Yes. The City installed a filtration device in June 2016, and test results show it is working to remove PFCs from Well 4's water.
Has the City tested its other wells?
Yes – all of Issaquah's wells have tested below EPA's detection threshold for PFCs.
Why take action now?
The City started testing for PFCs in 2013 as part of a nationwide program to help the EPA determine if new regulatory standards are needed for contaminants that are not yet regulated.
While an initial positive test was detected in 2013, test results showed non-detects of PFCs in 2014.
By the fall of 2015, however, the City became aware that the third-party testing lab made an error, and detections of PFCs were actually found. Once the City saw a pattern in the data, it immediately started working with the EPA and DOH, conducted more tests and hired independent experts to study its system.
In late January 2016 — when Issaquah was notified that the EPA is planning to issue a new advisory level for some PFCs — it ensured Well 4 was either turned off, or pumping at a reduced amount.
Issaquah meets all standards set for safe drinking water, and no formal regulatory actions have been required by EPA or the DOH. The agencies do recommend that the City continue to monitor its drinking water, and continue to provide appropriate and timely information to its customers.
What's the difference between regulated and unregulated substances?
Drinking water standards are regulations that EPA sets to control the level of contaminants in the nation's drinking water. The regulations also require water monitoring schedules and methods to measure contaminants in water.
The EPA also conducts a separate program to collect data from drinking water systems across the U.S. on possible contaminants that are not yet regulated. These tests provide the EPA with data on the occurrence of contaminants suspected to be in drinking water, in order to determine if new regulatory standards are needed to protect public health. This program included testing for PFCs in 2013 and 2014.
In addition, based on the latest science, the EPA recently released drinking water health advisories (which are not enforceable or regulated) on two PFCs, called PFOA and PFOS.
The Washington State Department of Ecology is also about to embark on a study of — and action for — PFCs in the state.