Read the full article by Timothy Wheeler (Bay Journal)
“Sampling by the Waterkeeper Alliance has turned up more waterways laced with toxic ‘forever chemicals,’ including more than a dozen in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.
Per– and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, have been found in 83% of waterways sampled in 29 states and Washington, DC, the alliance reported on Oct. 18. Many had detections of up to 35 different compounds.
In the Chesapeake watershed, the group’s sampling identified detectable levels of PFAS in the Anacostia River in DC, 10 rivers and streams in Maryland, three tributaries of the Susquehanna River in Pennsylvania, tributaries of the James and Shenandoah rivers in Virginia and one Potomac River tributary in West Virginia.
PFAS are a group of thousands of widely used and highly persistent chemicals. Some have been found to cause health problems, including decreased fertility, developmental delays, weakened immune systems and increased risk of some cancers. They’ve been detected in private wells and public water systems throughout the nation, including the Bay watershed.
‘When we began testing waterways for PFAS earlier this year, we knew that our country had a significant PFAS problem, but these findings confirm that was an understatement,’ said Marc Yaggi, CEO of the Waterkeeper Alliance. ‘This is a widespread public health and environmental crisis that must be addressed immediately by Congress and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.’
The EPA has yet to set an enforceable national limit on any PFAS in drinking water, though it has recommended limiting the two most frequently detected compounds, known as PFOA and PFOS. In June, it updated those advisory levels dramatically downward, essentially declaring any detectable level of each a health risk if consumed over a lifetime.
The EPA also has proposed but not finalized limits on PFOA and PFOS in freshwater to protect fish and aquatic life.
PFAS have been previously reported in several Bay watershed streams, including Antietam and Piscataway creeks in Maryland and Opequon Creek in West Virginia.
The waterkeeper report said the highest levels of PFOS and one other PFAS compound detected nationwide came from a branch of Kreutz Creek, which flows into the Susquehanna River.
The Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper group sampled the creek near a pipe discharging leachate from Modern Landfill, a sanitary landfill near York, PA. Levels detected just downstream were many times higher than those upstream. Lab analysis of downstream samples measured 374.3 parts per trillion PFOS and 847 ppt PFOA and detected 18 other PFAS compounds as well. The group called the lab results ‘catastrophically high.'” …