Read the full article by Marcus Dieterle (Baltimore Fishbowl)

With little federal guidance regarding ‘forever chemicals’ in drinking water, a new report from the Abell Foundation calls for local, state and federal action to protect water supplies in Baltimore, Maryland and across the country.

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, are a class of nearly 5,000 chemicals found in common household items, such as food wrappings, waterproofing sprays, fire retardants, carpeting and upholstery.

These ‘forever chemicals’ do not break down in the environment, groundwater or drinking water supplies, and ingesting them can cause low birth rates, cancer, miscarriages, and thyroid problems.

Although the Environmental Protection Agency in 2016 set a ‘voluntary, non-binding’ health advisory of less than 70 parts per trillion of PFAS in drinking water, there are no mandatory limits, according to the Abell report.

This means jurisdictions are not federally required to test for these chemicals in their water systems.

Scientists believe many people have low levels of PFAS in their bloodstream, particularly those who use household products containing the chemicals. But the presence of PFAS in waterways and drinking water is cause for greater concern, the report said.

In Lapeer, Mich., the small town’s wastewater plant offered its sewage sludge to farmers to use on their fields. Testing later revealed high levels of PFAS in the sludge, and the city now spends about $3 million per year to treat the sludge elsewhere to be deposited in a landfill, according to the report.

In Maryland, half of the sludge produced in the state winds up on agriculture fields, particularly on the Eastern Shore.

The report quotes former Maryland Department of the Environment Secretary Robert Summers, who explained that PFAS are difficult to remove once they get into the water supply.

‘PFAS in our water supply from streams, rivers, lakes, reservoirs, and groundwater… move through our sewage treatment plants back into the water, both in the treated water that is discharged back to the streams and rivers that are used for water supply downstream, and in the sludge that is removed from the sewage by treatment, spread on land and leaches back into the groundwater,’ Summers said.”…