Apr 15, 2019

Pennsylvania to Test PFAS in Drinking Water

A plan has been put in place to begin testing drinking water in Pennsylvania for PFAS

A plan has been put in place to begin testing drinking water in Pennsylvania for PFAS
A plan has been put in place to begin testing drinking water in Pennsylvania for PFAS

In Pennsylvania, state regulators announced a plan April 12 to begin testing drinking water that may be contaminated with PFAS.

According to PennLive, per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, is linked to a variety of cancers, liver ailments and pregnancy complications. The U.S. EPA (EPA) does not currently regulate these chemicals and drinking water supplies are not routinely tested for it.

“DEP will not hesitate to step up when the federal government fails to,” said Patrick McDonnell, state Environmental Secretary in a written statement, according to PennLive

According to PennLive, Pennsylvania monitored known contamination sources across the state, including the Harrisburg International Airport and Letterkenny Army Depot in Chambersburg. In March, a resident of Newberry Township in York County tested their own tap water for the chemical.

The test combined PFAS/PFOA levels of 186 ppt. This is beyond the 70 ppt limit established in an EPA health advisory. According to recent research, however, smaller concentrations than 70 ppt can also be dangerous.

Suez Water installed another treatment system, which is expected to be functional by April 15, according to PennLive. A spokesman told PennLive the company plans to test other water systems, including its facilities in Middletown.

Erik Olsen, senior director of health and food at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said PFAS is troubling because its chemical bonds do not break down in the environment, and they are toxic to humans even at low levels and spread quickly once introduced into water.

“They can cause really widespread contamination because it’s a toxic chemical that moves quickly and lasts forever,” Olsen said to PennLive.

According to PennLive, the DEP is investigating the possible contamination in Newberry Township and has not yet determined a source. The community is located on the Susquehanna River, which has housed a military base for decades.

It is fairly common for communities downstream to see elevated PFAS levels in their drinking water, Olsen said. He also said it has happened in North Carolina and West Virginia, among other states.

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