12 July 2019
An interim report into PFOS in Jersey’s drinking water supplies has been published today (Friday 12 July), with 18 recommendations which are now being considered by the Minister for the Environment, Deputy John Young.
The report was commissioned in February following the discovery of trace elements of perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) in a private water supply (borehole) in St Peter. Since then, boreholes across Jersey have been tested and the results compared to mains water supplies and elsewhere in the world. The testing has been for PFOS and for related chemicals (known as perfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS), and for nitrates and pesticides.
Trace levels of PFOS and PFOA were identified in the majority of private water supplies sampled across Jersey and all levels were comparable with levels found in other countries, indicating that the situation in Jersey in not uncommon. The results in groundwater show that current levels do not warrant any public health concerns. However, stream levels around the south of the Airport and the Pont Marquet area have higher levels and these require further testing.
Worldwide, research into the relationship between PFAS exposure and health effects is limited and has concluded that there is no current evidence that supports a large impact on a person’s health as a result of high levels of PFAS exposure (let alone the trace levels found).
Testing for nitrates confirmed previous findings that approximately half of households supplied by private water systems have supplies with water exceeding the EU and local drinking water limits. Several of the private water supplies tested also contained traces of pesticides and other chemicals. Some were over the prescribed legal limit of 0.1ug/l (a precautionary level based on the limit of detection).
Deputy Young said: “I would like to thank the officers who conducted this research. It is now for the political board to consider their recommendations and determine the next steps.
“I know that there has been concern around the presence of PFOS in borehole water, and it is important that we address those concerns.”
A briefing for the St Peter residents whose water supplies were tested will be held at St Peter’s Parish Hall on Monday 15 July, at 7pm. It will be open to anyone else who would like to attend, and free tickets are available on Eventbrite.
The briefing will also be filmed, and the recording published on the Government website and YouTube channel for anyone who is unable to attend.
PFOS interim report
The political board are:
Deputy John Young, Environment
Deputy Kevin Lewis, Infrastructure
Deputy Richard Renouf, Health
Constable Richard Vibert, St Peter
Deputy Rowland Huelin, St Peter
The terms of reference for the political board are:
- To receive fortnightly verbal updates from the Group Director of Regulation on the evolving situation
- To provide political input into the ongoing work of the officer group
- To understand any wider political and public implications relating to the issue
- To provide the Council of Ministers with a political view on the way forward being recommended by officers.
PFOS report recommendations
Sampling programme and further investigation
|Shallow boreholes and wells close to Jubilee Hill, north of the airport that are used for drinking water are identified and sampled.
|An investigation is undertaken to determine the sources of these higher levels of PFOS and PFOA, especially those emanating from the drainage of the airport. This is a view to potential remediation. As a result the formal regulatory position should at this stage be reserved.
|More detailed testing of rainwater for PFAS is undertaken.
|Further sampling and investigation of the efficacy of various household treatment systems is undertaken so that Environmental Health can advise the public. This should include the potential impact of waste streams from such systems.
|A system is developed to enable private households and businesses to test their water for pesticides and PFAS and their derivatives.
The Water Management Plan / other studies - remediation
Further work is undertaken to lower nitrate and pesticide levels both in surface and groundwater. These areas were identified in the ‘Challenges for the water environment of Jersey’ and the ‘Water Management Plan’ which was agreed by the States in Dec. 2016. Certain elements of the implementation of the Plan have progressed. These are mainly through voluntary initiatives of the agricultural and dairy sectors through the Action for Cleaner Water Group. However, the easy wins have been made. The Water Management Orders and new Water Code brought in under the Water Pollution (Jersey) Law 2000 will shortly be enacted and these elements and the Plan now require adequate funding, if nitrates and pesticide pollution is to be properly addressed . Further work remains to be undertaken in terms of updating the Pesticides (Jersey) Law, 1991.
In the absence of a specific compliance parameter in the Water (Jersey) Law 1972 for PFAS, the wide variety of limits internationally and the proposals by the EU to adopt new parameters within the forthcoming Drinking Water Directive, the Government of Jersey should clarify its position in respect of acceptable PFAS concentrations in drinking water and consider the introduction of scientifically derived parameter compliance limits for PFAS within the forthcoming planned amendment to the Water (Jersey) Law 1972.
|A hydrogeological study to determine the extent of the PFAS pollution in St Ouen’s Bay, the likely direction of travel of the pollution plume and prognosis for the future is undertaken.
|Based on the output from the hydrogeological study, a study to investigate and implement options for the remediation of the PFAS pollution in St Ouen’s Bay is undertaken.
|That a hydrogeological study to confirm the initial results and determine the extent of the PFAS pollution in the Pont Marquet catchment (including the effect on boreholes and wells), the likely direction of travel of the pollution plume and prognosis for the future is undertaken.
|Based on the output from the hydrogeological study, an investigation of the options for the remediation of the PFAS pollution in the Pont Marquet catchment is undertaken.
|To permanently offset the inherent risk to the pollution of groundwater and to safeguard public health, the island-wide distribution of both mains drains and mains water is recommended. Noting that this will have implications for water resources in the Island.
|That any on-island use of shorter-chained PFAS compounds is identified and a precautionary approach for early withdrawal of those products is undertaken.
|With their own and families health as the main concern, islanders with private water supplies should ensure they are tested regularly, and pursue measures recommended by their water treatment company to ensure their water is as safe as possible. Environmental Health will continue to produce and update information leaflets and webpages about water quality in private supplies. Individuals with any health concerns should consult their general practitioner.
|Government does not need at this point to intervene in the water supply from a public health standpoint as tests show that levels of PFAS are generally well within expected regulatory levels. This message will need to be communicated to residents at the same time of the publication of this report, and an ongoing engagement be designed on all issues relating to water quality.
|Improve awareness of the need to register boreholes and ensure that those with private water supplies are aware of the possibility of pollution, and the importance of regular testing and management of their source (leaflets are in the process of being produced which will support this).
|Ensure that gov.je is a reliable source of information on pollution and testing methods, and direct those seeking information to the gov.je using social media and traditional media where necessary. This will need to be supplemented by activity for those who do not use digital communication channels.
|Subject to Data Protection and other regulations, create a database of emails of registered borehole users, to be held by Environmental Health, so that users can be contacted quickly and directly in the event of issues being found.