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Occurrence of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances and inorganic analytes in groundwater and surface water used as sources for public water supply in West Virginia

July 20, 2022

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are widely observed anthropogenic compounds found in water supplies worldwide and increasingly linked with adverse health effects in humans. In 2019, the West Virginia Legislature recognized the contamination risk to public source-water supplies posed by PFAS and passed a resolution that required a statewide PFAS study. The purpose of the resolution was to understand the occurrence and distribution of PFAS contamination throughout the State’s rivers, lakes, and groundwater aquifers. The U.S. Geological Survey has worked in cooperation with the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection and West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources to collect raw-water samples at 279 public-water systems across West Virginia. Public-water systems sampled for this study were identified by the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources and included all community water systems in the State and all daycares and schools that operate their own water systems.

Raw source water was sampled for both groundwater and surface-water sites at the first available tap in the public-water system, prior to any treatment. One hundred and seventy-three samples were collected from groundwater sources and 106 samples were collected from surface-water sources. Parameters collected at the time of sampling included pH, specific conductance, water temperature, dissolved oxygen, turbidity, and alkalinity. PFAS was analyzed at all 279 sites, major ions and trace elements were analyzed at 272 sites, and nutrients were analyzed at 270 sites.

The type of source water used for public supply in West Virginia is generally dependent on geology with more groundwater sites sampled in high-yield aquifers such as karst and alluvium. Surface-water sites were more evenly distributed throughout the State and are often the only source used in areas underlain by lower-yielding fractured-rock aquifers. Twenty-four percent of the sites sampled for this study had at least 1 PFAS detected, 47 of which were in groundwater sources and 20 in surface-water sources. Five sites exceeded the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s health advisory for combined perfluorooctanoate and perfluorooctanesulfonate concentrations of 70 nanograms per liter. These sites were located in highly susceptible karst and alluvial groundwater aquifers on the east and west sides of the State.

Higher PFAS concentrations were more commonly found in groundwater than surface-water sources, and high concentrations and PFAS detections were generally concentrated in the Ohio River Valley and West Virginia’s eastern panhandle. PFAS was rarely detected in groundwater sites in fractured-rock aquifers and abandoned underground coal-mine aquifers in the Appalachian Plateaus Physiographic Province had very little PFAS detected. These data represent a baseline summary of source water in West Virginia. Additional studies may be needed to understand exposure to private homeowners with domestic-water sources, variability of PFAS concentrations over time, and PFAS in finished drinking water as evaluated by current and future drinking-water regulations.

Publication Year 2022
Title Occurrence of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances and inorganic analytes in groundwater and surface water used as sources for public water supply in West Virginia
DOI 10.3133/sir20225067
Authors Mitchell A. McAdoo, Gregory T. Connock, Terence Messinger
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Scientific Investigations Report
Series Number 2022-5067
Index ID sir20225067
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Virginia and West Virginia Water Science Center