Read the full article by Timothy B. Wheeler (Bay Journal)

“The St. Mary’s River Watershed Association said that per– and poly-fluoroalkyl substances, known as PFAS, have been detected in water from six of 10 sites sampled in the river and its tidal tributaries.  St. Mary’s College of Maryland separately reported last week that a seemingly low level of PFAS had been found in river water next to its campus.

PFAS are a group of more than 4,700 chemicals that have been used for decades in a wide variety of products, including nonstick cookware, stain– and water-repellant fabrics and fire-fighting foams. They are very persistent — hence their nickname — and have been found in groundwater and surface water, in fish and other foods, as well as in people’s bodies.

Studies have linked PFAS to a number of adverse health effects, including altered metabolism, fertility, reduced fetal growth, increased risk of obesity and a reduction in the ability to fight infections or diseases.

The St. Mary’s River watershed group decided to test water and oysters from the river after the Navy disclosed in early March that it plans to sample for PFAS in groundwater at Naval Air Station Patuxent River and Webster Field, a naval air research facility on the St. Mary’s River. Fire-fighting foam containing PFAS has been used and sprayed at both installations.

Bob Lewis, the association’s executive director, said the PFAS levels his group found in the river were ‘not alarming,’ given how widely PFAS have been used and found in the environment.  Contamination has been reported at more than 1,500 sites in 49 states, including dozens of locations in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Many of the contaminated sites are on or near military installations where fire-fighting foam has been used.

A laboratory hired by the watershed association measured two different PFAS chemicals at levels ranging from 5.1–9.1 parts per trillion.  Those levels are on par with the concentrations of PFAS found by a 2007 study of rainfall, Lewis noted. They’re also far below the level the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has set as a ‘lifetime health advisory’ for PFAS in drinking water of 70 parts per trillion…”