Read the full article by Lauren Ellenbecker (The Columbian)

“The city of Vancouver has found that three of its nine well fields exceed state levels for ‘per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances,’ compounds harmful to both humans and the environment in testing in late February.

The substances, also known as PFAS, include thousands of human-made compounds that have been branded ‘forever chemicals,’ since they don’t break down in soil, water or the human body, said Tyler Clary, Vancouver water engineering program manager.

Later this week, Vancouver public water customers will receive a mailer outlining water sampling results, as well as the city’s next steps to address the issue.

Washington’s drinking water levels, adopted in 2021, regulate five types of PFAS and provide guidance for how much water a user can consume over a lifetime and not suffer adverse health effects, even in sensitive groups.

Vancouver’s findings indicate the most common compounds found at Water Stations 4, 14 and 15 — the well fields under focus — were perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA, and perfluorooctane sulfonic acid, or PFOS.

These are two of five state-regulated compounds, which have been removed from most products due to health and environmental risks, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. They have also been produced in the largest quantities within the United States.

Altogether, Vancouver’s findings don’t reveal much new information. In 2020, Vancouver found several of its water stations had contaminants, and later sampling revealed 36 of Vancouver’s 40 wells contained some level of PFAS. Since then, officials have taken steps to create a PFAS management plan and apply for grants.

The state awarded Vancouver nearly $12.7 million this year to install a treatment system at Water Station 14, which has the highest concentration of PFAS. The city is currently pilot testing treatment methods to determine what the best option will be.

Consultants for the city estimate it would cost $172 million to install treatment systems for all Vancouver’s wells that exceed state action levels.

But this number could easily skyrocket.

In March, the EPA proposed a federal drinking water limit for both PFOA and PFOS, which is lower than Washington’s current action levels. If passed, Vancouver would be required to install treatment systems at eight of its nine well fields — raising capital costs from $172 million to upwards of $280 million to 300 million, Clary said.”…