As Many as 100 Million Americans Likely Have PFAS in their Drinking Water
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) updated its database and interactive map on where toxic fluorinated chemicals or “PFAS” have been detected based on the latest state and federal data and the numbers are alarming — particularly in the state of New Jersey, which has more than 500 sites including the President’s golf club there. Nationwide, PFAS contamination is now found at 1,361 locations in 49 states — and in a variety of sources including community water systems, groundwater sources, military bases, airports, and industrial sites. According to EWG’s analysis of unreleased EPA data, “more than 100 million Americans may have PFAS in their drinking water.”
Why This Matters: Think twice before you drink water from a tap in much of the country. Almost one-third of Americans may be drinking water with PFAS in it. The EPA does not regulate this “forever” chemical that never breaks down once released into the environment, and that builds up in our blood and organs. And scientists have warned that even low doses of PFAS chemicals in drinking water have been linked to many serious health problems such as an increased risk of cancer, reproductive and immune system harm, liver and thyroid disease. Meanwhile, Congress is bickering and has thus far been unable to pass legislation to force the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to limit PFAS contamination. Meanwhile, companies could also do the right thing and filter out the PFAS but they won’t because they are not required to do so. Shame on everyone involved in the poisoning of our drinking water or failing to do anything about it.
Take Massachusetts’ Merrimack River, For Example
This was the headline in the Boston Globe this week: “Toxic chemicals can be dumped into Merrimack River, federal and state officials say.” The story is even more shocking.
- Massachusetts permits New Hampshire to truck in dirty water that comes from a large landfill there to be treated in Lowell, Massachusetts, and then — because it is perfectly legal to do so (the water is “treated” after all) the plant dumps 100,000 gallons of it a day into the Merrimack River.
- The Merrimack River provides the drinking water for 500,000 local people.
- The landfill tests the water and those show that the amount of PFAS in it was more than 100 times higher than federal and state “guidelines” and more than 400 times higher than stricter standards being considered in Massachusetts.
- Unfortunately, even though the Lowell Regional Wastewater Utility treats the landfill runoff before discharging it into the river, the plant lacks the expensive equipment to filter out PFAS.
- And here is the worst part — environmental advocates say the treatment process can make the chemicals more toxic, enabling them to bind in ways that make them harder to break down.
- And then there is this too — according to the Globe, “[o]fficials at Waste Management, the Texas-based company that owns Turnkey Landfill, said it has the capability to filter out the chemicals but isn’t required to do so.”
The Merrimack is one of the New England region’s most polluted rivers Photo: Boston Globe