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County investigating detection of Freon-22 in groundwater

 

The Clallam County Department of Health & Human Services Environmental Health Section is investigating detection of a refrigerant called Freon-22 found in small public drinking water wells and four private wells north of Sequim.

 

The Washington State Department of Health has reviewed the information and believes the detection does not appear to pose a public health threat. The agency indicated that the chemical concentration is at a very low level and noted that it evaporates quickly.

 

Yet Freon-22 should not be in the groundwater, county officials said.

 

The county is working with the state Departments of Ecology and Health to identify the source and eliminate it.

 

The first detection of Freon-22 was a trace amount found during routine testing of the Deytona water system’s well north of Sequim.

 

The county conducted follow-up testing on the Deytona well and seven other wells in the area to see if the chemical is widespread. Test results indicate a Freon-22 plume is in the groundwater north of

Sequim, but the source and size of the plume are still being investigated. Neither Washington nor the federal government regulates Freon-22 in drinking water. The only state that does regulate it is Wisconsin, which has a limit of 1,000 parts per billion. The concentrations found in the Clallam wells ranged from 20 parts per billion to 239 parts per billion, four times below Wisconsin’s drinking water limit.

 

Three of the eight wells had no detections, county officials said.

 

The county has notified the well owners of the results.

 

Freon-22 has been a popular refrigerant in use for the past 40 years, especially for heat pumps and air conditioners.

 

“The federal government is gradually phasing out the compound because it damages ozone in the atmosphere, but its use is still permitted.

 

“We do not believe there is a health risk based on information to date,” said Director of Environmental Health Andy Brastad.

 

“However, concerned residents can limit their exposure by storing tap water to be used for drinking in an open container overnight, using a carbon filter or boiling it.”

 

People in the immediate area who have questions about this project may call Jennifer Garcelon at 417-2347.

 

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