Read the full article by Laura Schulte and Frank Vaisvilas (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

“Tribal water systems are sampled for ‘forever chemicals’ at a much lower rate than other water systems, according to a new study from the PFAS Project Lab at Northeastern University.

In a peer-reviewed study, researchers found that only about 3% of tribal water systems were sampled for PFAS by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency during its previous rounds of required testing. By comparison, about 7% of non-tribal water systems were sampled during the same rounds of testing. In an upcoming round of sampling required by the EPA, an expected 12.7% of tribal water systems will be sampled, compared with 15.7% of non-tribal water systems, the study found.

Essentially, that means that tribal water systems are being tested less by the federal government, leaving gaps in knowledge for those who rely on the water systems. For the most part, testing isn’t being done on tribal systems because they’re smaller, said researcher Alissa Cordner.

‘I think this shows that even policies and programs that are systematic and have clear criteria can still fail to equitably include all populations,’ Cordner said. ‘Here is a systematically designed program not including tribal systems, because they’re smaller systems.’

Cordner said that the federal government should seek to ensure it is testing drinking water of marginalized communities at the same rates as other communities, to ensure that the public is getting a full picture of where PFAS contamination may be affecting people.

Since the PFAS Project Lab started research on this project, some data regarding tribal systems has been made public, and for the most part those systems have been unaffected by PFAS. But even that data is important.

‘It’s not appropriate to assume because we don’t have data, we don’t have a problem,’ she said.

PFAS, or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, are a family of man-made chemicals used for their water- and stain-resistant qualities in products such as clothing and carpet, nonstick cookware, packaging and firefighting foam. The family includes 5,000 compounds, which are persistent, remaining both in the environment and human body over time.” …