@EPA to limit manmade chemicals in drinking water #PFAS

Widefield aquifer via the Colorado Water Institute.

From Reuters:

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will announce on Thursdays limits on how much toxic chemicals from cookware and carpeting are allowed in drinking water.

The agency will announce a plan to control a group of chemicals known as PFAS that are linked to cancer, liver and thyroid damage, and other health and fetal effects. The substances, which include PFOA and PFOS, are found in non-stick cookware, stain-resistant carpeting and other manmade materials.

Acting administrator Andrew Wheeler will make the announcement at 9 a.m. EST (1400 GMT)…

An EPA statement about Thursday’s announcement did not mention a specific level for the substances.

ABC News Live interviewed Wheeler on Wednesday and reported that drinking water systems around the country will be tested for the chemicals at lower levels than an earlier round of testing in 2012.

Photo via USAF Air Combat Command

This announcement will be good (but too late) news for the folks in this article by Faith Miller that’s running in the Colorado Springs Independent:

For Steve Patterson, any decision the Environmental Protection Agency makes around whether to regulate toxic PFASs (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) in drinking water is too little, too late.

That’s apparent when he counts off the family members who he believes have already fallen victim to the Air Force firefighting foam that leached into drinking water sources in Fountain, Security-Widefield and the Stratmoor neighborhood of southeast Colorado Springs for decades.

At least 10 of Patterson’s family members and in-laws, including his father, sister, uncle, cousin and niece, have died from different kinds of cancer. A dozen or so more family members are battling cancer. And recently, his 14-year-old grandson required a kidney transplant.

Not all of these people are related by blood, so it’s unlikely that the high occurrence of disease, predominantly kidney- and colon-related, is purely genetic. But Patterson’s family members share at least one deadly risk factor: They all spent years in an area contaminated by chemicals which, according to a recent report in Politico, the EPA doesn’t plan to limit in drinking water.

“We have a huge family, and it’s 
only the ones out here [in Stratmoor, Fountain, Security-Widefield],” Patterson says. “Now the ones that live in town, they’re not having that problem. And so that’s how I know it has to be connected.”

[…]

Evidence that drinking water in the Fountain and Security-Widefield areas was contaminated with the toxic chemicals began to emerge in 2015, and the affected water districts changed sources or added treatment systems to filter out the chemicals. The EPA issued a drinking water advisory limit of 70 parts per trillion (ppt) for PFASs in May 2016.

But prior to those changes, some groundwater wells in the area had tested at PFAS levels several times that limit. And some of the approximately 65,000 residents had, like Patterson’s family, been exposed to the chemicals for many years.

Patterson’s skeptical that the government will do anything to help longtime residents who’ve suffered still-unknown consequences from the PFAS chemicals that leached into their drinking water.

“It’s not that we’re looking for money. We’re looking for like, who’s going to take care of me?” Patterson says. “I mean, what is it in my system … what is the government going to do to fix it and help us?”

In December, initial results from a study by the Colorado School of Public Health and Colorado School of Mines showed that Security-Widefield and Fountain residents who had lived in the area for at least three years before 2015 had higher-than-normal levels of three PFAS chemicals in their blood.

Study participants had blood levels of one toxic compound, PFHxS, that were about 10 times as high as U.S. population reference levels. They had about twice as much PFOS, another chemical in the PFAS group, as the general population. Previous studies have linked this chemical to thyroid hormone effects in humans.

And levels of the chemical PFOA — which human studies have linked to cancer — were 40 to 70 percent higher than U.S. reference levels.

As public awareness of widespread PFAS contamination grew (the Air Force has identified approximately 200 sites in the U.S. where the firefighting foam may have been released), anger spread among residents, who called for the Air Force to pay to fix the damage. The EPA drew ire, too, when Politico reported in May 2018 that it had sought to cover up a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that indicated safe levels of PFAS could be as low as 12 ppt.

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