PFAS

Ohio River Regulators Planning Riverwide PFAS Study

Feb 5, 2020
Ryan Van Velzer

Scientists are designing a new study to test for PFAS, so-called “forever chemicals”, along the entire length of the Ohio River. Concerns are mounting about PFAS contamination in drinking water systems along the Ohio Valley. Studies have shown the contaminants in the drinking water of dozens of cities.

The scientists work with a multi-state commission charged with overseeing water quality on the Ohio River known as the Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission (ORSANCO).

The commission’s work has always included monitoring pollution in the river and it makes sense to examine these emerging contaminants, executive director Richard Harrison said.


Wikimedia Commons

New testing by the Environmental Working Group has identified the presence of toxic fluorinated chemicals, broadly known as PFAS, in the tap water of dozens of cities across the U.S. where contamination was not previously known. 

EWG, an advocacy organization that tracks environmental pollutants in consumer products, sampled water in 44 places between May and December 2019. The testing revealed the presence of so-called “forever chemicals” in 34 water systems, including in the Ohio cities of Columbus and Cincinnati, as well as in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Previous testing from the group found 10 PFAS compounds in tap water in Louisville, Kentucky.

The so-called “forever chemicals” persist in the environment and in the human body and have been found in numerous water systems in the Ohio Valley. PFAS chemicals were used in flame-retardant foam sprays and in the manufacture of nonstick and stain-resistant products.


Film still courtesy Focus Features

The new film “Dark Waters” depicts the real-life story of the 20-year battle waged by attorney Rob Bilott against chemical giant DuPont.

We meet Bilott, played by Mark Ruffalo, as a young corporate defense lawyer living in Cincinnati. His grandmother, who lives in Parkersburg, West Virginia, gives his phone number to local farmer, Earl Tennant. Tennant lives next to a landfill where DuPont had been dumping a chemical called C8.

In a scene from the film, Tennant, played by actor Bill Camp, shows Bilott around his farm, where his cows are dying.


Ryan Van Velzer

Half of all the public drinking water systems tested in a new report from the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet are showing evidence of PFAS contamination.

These chemicals belong to a class of more than 5,000 compounds often called “forever chemicals” and are known to increase the risk of cancer, among other health problems.

Researchers found the highest levels and the highest rates of detection in drinking water systems that pulled from waters connected to the Ohio River. State officials say that’s most likely because of the amount of industry near the waterway. In Louisville, researchers detected three PFAS compounds at two different water treatment plants, according to the report.

Flickr/Creative Commons/Joost Nelissen

Tap water delivered by more than 2,000 water systems across the Ohio Valley contain pollutants, many harmful to human health, even though they mostly meet federal drinking water standards. That’s according to a newly-updated database released by the Environmental Working Group, an advocacy organization. 

Millions of residents in Kentucky, Ohio and West Virginia are being exposed to small amounts of chemicals and contaminants, including those linked to cancer, the group found. 

“Just because your drinking water has passed federal standards or it gets a passing grade, it still might pose risks to your health,” said Tasha Stoiber, a senior scientist with EWG. 


Erica Peterson

It’s in food packaging, non-stick pans, paint, cleaning products and firefighting foams.

It’s likely in your blood. It’s probably in my blood. And if it wasn’t there before, it could be there now. That is, if you’re drinking Louisville tap water.

The Environmental Working Group, an organization that tracks environmental pollutants in consumer products, found 10 PFAS compounds in a sample of Louisville drinking water taken from a home in July, according to data from the group.

Glynis Board I Ohio Valley ReSource

Executives from three major chemical companies — DuPont de Nemours, Inc., The Chemours Company and The 3M Company — testified for the first time to Congress about widespread contamination from the group of nonstick, fluorinated chemicals broadly called PFAS.

The so-called “forever chemicals” persist in the environment, are linked to ill health effects, and have been found in numerous water systems in the Ohio Valley.

The hearing — the third on PFAS contamination by the House Committee on Oversight and Reform’s Subcommittee on Environment — explored the extent to which companies that make PFAS chemicals knew about its impacts on human health and the environment and how they should be held accountable.  


Flickr/Creative Commons/Joost Nelissen

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said Thursday it will move forward with a series of actions to regulate toxic fluorinated chemicals, including proposing drinking water limits by the end of this year. But environment and public health advocates say that timeline is unacceptably slow given the health risks and extent of contamination.

In its long-awaited “PFAS Action Plan,” EPA laid out a series of actions to address the widespread contamination of fluorinated PFAS chemicals.

Those chemicals include PFOA, or C8, which has been detected in several water systems in the Ohio Valley. The chemicals were used in a variety of products, including non-stick cookware, stain resistant clothing, and flame retardants.


Senate committee video

During a sometimes contentious confirmation hearing Wednesday on his nomination to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler was pressed by members of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works about the impact of the government shutdown on the agency.

Wheeler noted one casualty of the ongoing partial government shutdown, now in its fourth week, is that a long-awaited plan on regulating the PFAS group of chemicals has been delayed.