Officials: PFAS Chemicals Found in a Third of PA Water Samples

Firefighter directing a hoseline upwards

By MARC LEVY Associated Press

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration said the results of a statewide sampling program does not indicate widespread contamination of drinking water supplies by a class of highly toxic chemicals used in products like nonstick cookware, carpets, firefighting foam and fast-food wrappers.

Of more than 400 sites tested across Pennsylvania, about one-third were found to contain one of the chemicals, according to results posted online Thursday by the Department of Environmental Protection.

The sites with positive tests were located in more than two dozen counties.

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Two of the results were above the federal government’s health advisory level of 70 parts per trillion for the combined concentrations of perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, known collectively as PFAS.

One result, from a well at an electrical equipment manufacturer by University Park Airport just outside State College, was slightly above the limit. Another result, from a well in Saegertown Borough in Crawford County, was nearly three times the limit.

The statewide sampling began in June 2019, and wrapped up in March.

The chemicals have turned up increasingly in public water systems and private wells around the country after the federal government in 2013 ordered public water systems with more than 10,000 customers to test for it.

About four dozen samples were taken in Bucks and Montgomery counties, where PFAS contamination has been traced to sources including Horsham Air Guard Station and the former Naval Air Warfare Center.

State officials say 493 public water systems in Pennsylvania are located within half a mile of a potential source of PFAS contamination, such as military bases, fire training sites, landfills and factories.

The Department of Environmental Protection tested 372 sites, plus another 40 sites that are outside a half mile of a potential source of PFAS contamination, to establish a baseline.

Studies have found “associations” between the chemicals and cancer, thyroid disease, ulcerative colitis and other health issues, although state officials say their effects on human health are not fully understood.

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