Tap Water Still Unsafe For More Than 200 Burrillville Residents

Oct 24, 2017

Some 200 Burrillville residents are still unable to drink their tap water after a discovery last month of toxic chemicals in the public water supply.

A public well managed by the Oakland Association tested positive in September for slightly elevated levels of per and polyfluoroalkyl substances, which are man-made chemicals found in items such as non-stick cookware and water-resistant clothing. Some studies have also linked the compounds to health problems, including some types of cancer.

Rhode Island's Department of Environmental Management tested 53 private wells within a quarter mile radius of the public well. Matthew Destefano, deputy chief of the Office of Waste Management at DEM, told residents Monday night at a community meeting that seven of those private wells came back positive for slightly elevated levels.   

The source of the contamination is still unknown. DEM will be taking soil and groundwater samples around the Oakland Association's public well to find out where the chemicals are coming from. 

Destefano told residents to continue to follow the state’s health advisory for tap water.

"You shouldn’t cook with it or do anything where you’re going to ingest it, like brush your teeth, or anything like that. But showering is fine, or watering the lawn is fine, you just can’t ingest it," Destefano said. 

DEM has been providing free bottled water and water coolers to affected residents since the results of the public well came back positive. State officials say it could take several months before residents can drink their tap water again. 

Michael Keable, president of the Oakland Association, said it’s important for people not to panic.

"The levels are just slightly above the recommended (federal) levels, and I think if people are careful it’ll be ok," Keable said. 

The water contamination is limited to the Oakland section of Burrillville. The town has 60 days to submit a remediation plan to Rhode Island's Department of Health.