Read the full article by Colleen Cronin (ecoRI)

“WARWICK, R.I. — At Spring Green Pond, the quacking and flapping of ducks mixed with the roaring of jet engines from nearby T. F. Green International Airport and the rush of cars on Warwick Avenue.

Recent testing showed this pocket of nature enveloped by a busy commercial and industrial district has high concentrations of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). These ‘forever chemicals,’ which are found in everything from firefighting foams to food packaging, are linked to several cancers, fertility issues, and developmental delays in children.

Although it’s hard to pinpoint where the PFAS in the pond came from, the high concentration of toxins could suggest yet unknown contamination throughout the state.

The pond was tested by Mike Jarbeau, Save The Bay’s baykeeper, as part of a report by the Waterkeeper Alliance

All of the Rhode Island bodies of water tested by Save The Bay for the study came back positive for PFAS, including nearby Buckeye Brook, but Spring Green Pond tested highest for each individual chemical and in total concentration, with 193.9 parts per trillion (ppt) of PFAS.

Jarbeau said he chose to test Buckeye Brook and Spring Green Pond because of their proximity to an airport, but said he was surprised that Buckeye Brook, downstream from T. F. Green, had lower PFAS levels than the pond.

He had hypothesized that if the contamination was due to the airport, the brook would have been the more polluted source.

Airports are common sources of PFAS contamination because they use and store aqueous film-forming foams (AFFF), which contain forever chemicals, to fight plane fires.

T. F. Green has never had an accident which required the use of AFFF, and it stopped using those foams in non-emergency training situations in 2019, according to John Goodman, assistant vice president of media and public relations for the Rhode Island Airport Corporation (RIAC), which operates T. F. Green and the other airports in Rhode Island.

Jarbeau said he couldn’t draw any definitive conclusions as to how the chemicals had leached into the water, but noted he was interested to see that some of the compounds weren’t legally manufactured in the United States anymore.

For example, perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), which was used in Teflon pans, and perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS), which was an ingredient in Scotchgard, were found in the pond but are no longer manufactured in the United States. Those chemicals never degrade — thus the moniker forever — so exposures have continued into the present, according to the Waterkeeper Alliance report.

The other chemicals found in the pond, including perfluorohexanoic acid (PFHxA) and perfluoropentanoic acid (PFPeA), which are found in stain- and grease-proof food packaging and household items, and perfluorobutane sulfonic acid (PFBS), an ingredient in the new Scotchgard formula, however, are all still permitted for use.

PFAS ‘show up in funny places we don’t expect,’ said Rainer Lohmann, a professor of oceanography at the University of Rhode Island and director of the research program STEEP: Sources, Transport, Exposure & Effects of PFAS.” …