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1,4-Dioxane Contamination in Tampa Bay Drinking Water

1,4-Dioxane is an emerging contaminant that has been detected in drinking water supplies across Tampa Bay. This probable human carcinogen is concerning for public health and requires effective treatment solutions. In this article, we'll examine the presence of 1,4-dioxane in the region, associated health risks, and water treatment options to remove this contaminant.

What is 1,4-Dioxane?

1,4-Dioxane, also known as dioxane, is a clear liquid that easily dissolves in water. It is a likely human carcinogen and emerging contaminant of concern. Dioxane is a byproduct of industrial processes and found in many consumer goods like shampoos, cosmetics, and detergents. Over time, it has permeated into ground and surface waters from discharge of wastewater effluent into lakes, rivers, and aquifers.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has set a health advisory limit of 35 parts per billion (ppb) for 1,4-dioxane in drinking water. However, it is currently unregulated at the federal level and not all states set legal limits. According to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, short-term exposure above advisory levels can cause eye, nose, and throat irritation, lung damage, headaches, dizziness, and kidney and liver damage. Long-term exposure is associated with increased cancer risk.

Widespread 1,4-Dioxane Contamination in Tampa Bay

Recent testing has detected 1,4-dioxane at concerning levels in public water systems and private wells across Tampa Bay counties. This is likely due to the large number of wastewater discharge sites and reclaimed water usage that impact local surface and groundwater.

Pinellas County

The cities of Clearwater, Largo, Oldsmar, Pinellas Park, and St. Petersburg have all detected 1,4-dioxane above the EPA health advisory. Over 90% of St. Petersburg's drinking water is supplied by surface waters, which are vulnerable to contamination from wastewater effluent. Dioxane has also impacted private wells, especially in areas near reclaimed water irrigation. Neighborhoods like Crystal Beach, Ozona, Palm Harbor, and Tarpon Springs have reported detections exceeding health advisory levels.

Pasco County

Pasco County utilities have reported low levels of 1,4-dioxane, especially in areas using advanced wastewater treatment for reclaimed water. The cities of New Port Richey and Port Richey, as well as communities like Elfers, Holiday, and Seven Springs have seen increased dioxane levels in groundwater sources. Private wells located near reclaimed water sites are most at risk.

Hillsborough County

The Hillsborough County Water Department has detected 1,4-dioxane above EPA advisory levels in several county water systems. Impacted city and county neighborhoods include Sun City Center, Gibsonton, Apollo Beach, Riverview, Brandon, and Valrico. Dioxane has also been found in private wells, often correlated with proximity to reclaimed water supplies.

Widespread Impact

While 1,4-dioxane contamination is prevalent across the greater Tampa Bay region, it is important to test your specific water source. Since it readily dissolves in water and leaches into groundwater supplies, contamination can impact both municipal and private well sources. Routine testing is crucial for identifying contamination issues.

Health Concerns of 1,4-Dioxane

The biggest risk associated with 1,4-dioxane contamination is increased cancer risk. According to the EPA, short-term exposure above advisory levels can also cause kidney and liver damage.

1,4-Dioxane is classified as a probable human carcinogen by the EPA due to conclusive animal studies. However, the direct link to cancer in humans is considered likely, but still inconclusive. Exposure over many years is thought to cause cell mutations that could eventually lead to tumor growth. Minimizing exposure now is important for reducing future cancer risk.

People with private wells are especially vulnerable since they bear responsibility for monitoring and treating their own water. However, 1,4-dioxane can also easily penetrate public water supplies, putting entire communities at risk. Infants, children, elderly, pregnant women, nursing mothers, and immunocompromised individuals may be more susceptible to negative health impacts.

While EPA's 35 ppb health advisory provides guidance, some health experts argue that it does not go far enough to protect public health since it represents a 1-in-10,000 lifetime cancer risk. States like Vermont and Massachusetts have enacted more stringent regulatory limits between 0.3 to 2 ppb. Either way, the widespread detections across Tampa Bay often exceed these recommended levels, making treatment imperative.

Treating 1,4-Dioxane in Drinking Water

Because 1,4-dioxane easily dissolves in water and cannot be removed through conventional carbon filtration, specialized treatment solutions are required. The most effective options include:

  • AquaRevive Reverse Osmosis can remove up to 99% of 1,4-dioxane through its multi-stage filtration process. The addition of a polishing carbon filter ensures optimal contaminant reduction.

  • WellFusion Well Water Treatment Systems use bleach injection to oxidize and break down dioxane molecules into safer byproducts. This effective whole home treatment option installs at your well head.

  • HydroTech Pro Commercial Water Treatment employs advanced oxidation through UV light and ozone injection. This process damages the dioxane molecule, allowing multi-media filters to capture and remove contaminants.

  • Point-of-use under sink reverse osmosis systems can also effectively treat dioxane for drinking and cooking uses. Look for systems certified to reduce VOCs and 1,4-dioxane.

Proper ongoing maintenance is crucial for ensuring contaminant removal. Annual testing will verify treatment effectiveness and determine if adjustments are needed. For the safest water, combine systems when possible. Reverse osmosis coupled with UV-oxidation provides optimal protection.

Protect Your Health from Water Contaminants

1,4-dioxane represents one of many emerging water contaminants that can infiltrate drinking water supplies if left unchecked. Routine testing is the only way to detect threats specific to your water source. Once identified, specialized water treatment can remove risks before they impact your health.

Learn more about water testing and treatment options for your home or business:

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EPA 1,4-Dioxane Fact Sheet

ATSDR 1,4-Dioxane Toxicological Profile

Tampa Bay Times - This likely carcinogen has polluted Florida's water for decades. Officials are just now understanding the full extent

Environmental Working Group - 1,4-Dioxane Contamination Widespread

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