PFAS, or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, are found in firefighting foams, nonstick cookware, and other everyday items. The chemicals have seeped into drinking water near military bases across the country that used firefighting foams and manufacturing plants that made products with PFAS.
The substances have been linked to cancer, fertility issues, and other health problems.
Pennsylvania already completed blood testing for residents in Bucks and Montgomery Counties. Results indicated that residents in Horsham, Warminster, and Warrington Townships had elevated levels of PFAS in their bloodstreams.
Pennsylvania’s PFAS Action Team will update residents this fall on the statewide sampling plan and its findings thus far, Elizabeth Rementer, a spokesperson for the state Department of Environmental Protection, said in an email Monday. The sampling plan began in June and will take about a year, she said. Officials will provide quarterly updates and will notify public water systems.
As they wait for the Environmental Protection Agency to move forward on regulating PFAS, here are some of the latest actions in states dealing with PFAS contamination:
Researchers at Duke University will begin a study of PFAS’s effects on residents in Pittsboro, N.C., which will include blood sampling, North Carolina Health News reported Monday. Like Pennsylvania, North Carolina — where one type of PFAS was discharged into a river by a Chemours facility — is testing for PFAS across the state. Researchers at multiple universities in the state are studying the substances.
On Tuesday, Connecticut regulators will hold the first meeting of a newly formed working group mandated by the governor this month to create a for the state to minimize PFAS exposure and clean up contaminated areas. State officials will also test three eastern Connecticut rivers for PFAS this summer, the Hartford Courant reported.
New Hampshire approved the nation’s most stringent drinking water limits this month for four types of PFAS: 12 parts per trillion for PFOA, 15 for PFOS, 18 for PFHxS, and 11 for PFNA. When the new standards take effect in October, drinking water systems will be required to test for the substances. Some officials have expressed concern that the new regulations and testing requirements will become too expensive for water providers to handle and may lead to increases in taxes and water rates, the Associated Press reported.
Drinking water testing by the Madison water utility was reported to be wrapping up this month, and state officials last week launched a voluntary testing program for municipal wastewater treatment facilities to attempt to identify where PFAS is coming into their systems. The results will be used to create plans to reduce the amount of PFAS entering treatment facilities and are part of a broader state effort to examine surface water and groundwater, NBC 15 reported. Meanwhile, state officials in June recommended a restrictive groundwater enforcement standard for two types of PFAS.
New Mexico is taking legal action to demand that the Air Force deal with PFAS water contamination near bases in the state. The state has asked a federal court to require the Air Force to test water near its bases, provide clean water to residents whose water is contaminated, and offer blood tests, according to New Mexico Political Report.
In West Virginia, letters were sent to randomly selected residents last week asking them to participate in a federally funded health study. The study will begin in the fall, according to local news reports. West Virginia is one of eight states where the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry are conducting PFAS exposure assessments scheduled to start in 2019 and continue into 2020.
New York’s CDC/ATSDR-funded health study will begin in 2020, according to the Middletown Times Herald Record, and will measure how much PFAS levels in Newburgh residents’ blood have decreased since they were last tested through a state program a few years ago. Newburgh’s water was contaminated with PFAS; the cause is considered to be firefighting foam used on a nearby Air National Guard base.