News Feature | June 15, 2017

PFCs Found To Contaminate Water Supplies For 15 Million People

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome,

A new study highlights the scope of drinking water contamination by perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs) in the U.S.

The study released last week by the nonprofit Environmental Working Group (EWG) and Northeastern University in Boston shows PFCs are found in “drinking water for 15 million Americans in 27 states,” TIME reported.

“Of the 47 locations where the source of PFCs contamination in drinking water supplies is known or suspected in the ... study, 21 are current or former military bases, 20 are industrial facilities and seven are from civilian firefighting sites. Some locations have multiple sources,” the Detroit Free Press reported.

The research project includes an interactive map highlighting where PFCs have been detected. Bill Walker, co-author of the report and managing editor of EWG, explained how this study breaks ground.

“For the first time we’re reporting the full results of the EPA water testing, as well as known industrial spills and sites with military contamination, to provide a complete picture of where these PFCs are detected,” he said in a statement.

The U.S. EPA issued a health advisory last year about exposure to perfluorinated compounds as various towns wage high-profile battles against the pollutants. PFCs are industrial contaminants, and research has tied them to cancer.

“The 70 ppt level recommended by the EPA [last year] was a dramatic decrease over the agency’s prior, short-term recommended limit of 400 ppt,” The Intelligencer previously reported.

But as the EWG study points out, many scientists say the limits should be lower.

“After reviews by state scientists in Minnesota, New Jersey and Vermont, these same states have set or proposed health-based limits for PFOA or PFOS between 14 ppt and 35 ppt,” the report said.

The study revealed which states have the most PFC contamination, with New Jersey ranking the highest.

“New Jersey has the most known contamination sites with six, followed by Alabama and New Hampshire with five each and New York with four. At many of the sites, contamination levels are extremely high,” the study said.

“The highest level recorded is at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, a combined Air Force, Army and Navy base near Trenton, NJ. Groundwater at the base was found to have 580,000 ppt of PFOS. At Dover Air Force Base near Dover, DE, groundwater was found to have 270,000 ppt of PFOS,” it continued.