Read the full article by Micheal Booth (The Colorado Sun)

“Metro Denver’s wastewater treatment system is spreading sewage biosolids laced with toxic PFAS ‘forever chemicals’ at its farm in eastern Arapahoe County and on private farms that buy the material as fertilizer, according to test records obtained by the Colorado Sun. 

The likely presence of the ubiquitous and dangerous chemicals on Colorado farmland, placed there through biosolids spread by Metro Water Recovery and more than 100 other municipal waste agencies, adds to a growing list of potential health threats and underscores the need for widespread testing, researchers and watchdog groups said. 

No agency requires Metro Water Recovery or other Colorado municipal waste handlers to test the soil or groundwater where biosolids are spread to determine if the chemicals used to make nonstick pans and waterproof hiking clothes are creating the type of human health threats routinely documented by local and national researchers. Study after study shows detectable levels of PFAS in nearly all humans, in all the fish captured in one Colorado test, and in other living creatures. 

Wastewater agencies say they are taking PFAS in as runoff from industry, food containers, plastics and waterproofed consumer goods, meaning metro areas are delivering PFAS contamination to rural areas in the form of biosolids.

Metro Water Recovery did testing in 2019 for its own research purposes and found occasional spikes in some types of PFAS chemicals before the biosolids were spread on farms. Metro Water Recovery officials say their 2019 testing showed that overall PFAS levels in biosolids are ‘low,’ and ‘not far above the detection level in most samples.’

Outside researchers say some of those levels are disturbing evidence that soil, water and crops at farms need comprehensive testing. State water quality regulators have now formed a working group on PFAS in biosolids, saying they plan to begin requiring testing at some point.

After inquiries by The Sun, Metro Water Recovery (formerly Metro Wastewater Reclamation District) said it is considering water testing in the area of its 52,000-acre Metrogro farm about 65 miles east of Denver. Tainted biosolids have contaminated water with PFAS in other states. 

University researchers and environmental watchdog groups say tainted biosolids spread as fertilizer by most major cities across the nation — in part because there is no disposal alternative — pose the next major question for local health officials already confronting PFAS contamination in Colorado and nationwide. 

Municipal sewage handlers across the nation, including Metro Water Recovery, have known about the presence and potential risks of PFAS chemicals in their effluent and biosolids since at least 2010, when a group of studies came out, said Christopher Higgins, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Colorado School of Mines who has co-authored multiple studies on PFAS and testifies for both plaintiffs and defense in contamination cases. 

A series of studies co-authored by Higgins published beginning in 2011 demonstrated versions of PFAS chemicals in soil, earthworms and crops where municipal biosolids had been spread from Chicago waste. The studies called for much more testing of soil, crops and water in areas where biosolids are spread.”…