Read the full article by Tim Wheeler (Bay Journal)
“It’s been nearly six years since city officials in Martinsburg, WV, learned that one of the wells supplying drinking water to their community contained harmful levels of per– and polyfluoroalkyl substances, extremely persistent compounds often called ‘forever chemicals.’
Authorities promptly took the tainted well out of service and only resumed using it in December 2017 after installing a granular activated-carbon treatment system to deal with the contaminants. Since the treatment system went online, PFAS concentrations in Martinsburg’s water have been below the health threshold recommended by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
But the compounds have continued to show up in the area’s groundwater and local streams, and questions remain about health effects from area residents’ lengthy exposures to the toxic chemicals.
A recent report by the U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry found that residents of Martinsburg and surrounding Berkeley County who drank public tapwater still had elevated levels of two PFAS compounds in their bodies roughly 3.5 years after the contaminated well had been taken offline.
‘I think there was a sense that installing granular activated-carbon would solve the problem, and now there may be reason to believe that’s not the case,’ said Scott Faber, senior vice president of the Environmental Working Group, a national nonprofit based in Washington, DC.
PFAS are a group of thousands of manmade chemicals used as stain and water repellants in a large number of industrial and consumer products. In Martinsburg’s case, the source of contamination is Shepherd Field Air National Guard base outside of town, where aqueous film-forming foam containing PFAS had been used since the early 1970s to fight fires and train firefighters.
The compounds in the foam soaked into the ground and seeped off-site and apparently into the City of Martinsburg’s Big Springs well, which supplies drinking water to both the city and some residents of Berkeley County.
PFAS were first detected in the Big Spring well in 2014, but at that time the levels did not exceed provisional safety levels set by the EPA. Two years later, though, after the EPA established health advisory levels for two PFAS compounds, the city took Big Spring offline and didn’t reactivate it until the treatment system had been shown to work.”…