May 20, 2016 — David Gutman

Vienna residents were advised not to drink or cook with their municipal water on Thursday because five water samples, taken last year from throughout the water system, showed levels of C8 higher than a new advisory level for the chemical released earlier that day.

Vienna’s water comes from eight wells in three well groupings, and all three groupings were found to have elevated levels of C8 — a chemical linked to cancer and numerous other health problems — when tests were done in May and December of 2015.

In 2009, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency set a provisional health advisory for C8 of 400 parts per trillion in drinking water.

Recent test results all fall below that limit.

On Thursday, though, after years of delays, the EPA set a long-term advisory limit of 70 parts per trillion.

Environmental groups and local lawyers have been pleading with the EPA to take action for more than 15 years, and many say the new level is still far too lenient in the amount of C8 it says is permissible in drinking water. They’re also critical that the limit is advisory only, and does not carry the force of law.

“[The] EPA must set a legally enforceable standard that will protect the millions of Americans drinking C8-contaminated water,” said Paul Brooks, a Vienna doctor and leader of the group Keep Your Promises DuPont. “This guideline falls short of that goal.”