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Little to no PFAS found at most smaller drinking water utilities in first round of state tests

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Lauren Chapman
/
IPB News
Of the drinking water utilities the state tested, only two had detectable levels of PFAS in their treated water.

So far, the state has detected little or no toxic PFAS chemicals in Indiana's smaller drinking water utilities. That’s according to the Indiana Department of Environmental Management’s preliminary testing data from 24 smaller water utilities.

PFAS is a human-made chemical found in everything from carpets, to fast food wrappers, to firefighting foams on military bases — like Grissom Air Reserve Base near Kokomo. Exposure to them has been linked to cancer, problems with the immune system, and developmental issues in children.

Of the drinking water utilities the state tested, only two had detectable levels of PFAS in their treated water — Morgan County Rural Water Corporation and the city of Charlestown, served by Indiana American Water — and those levels were low.

Hartford City and Aurora had some PFAS chemicals in their raw water, but no detectable levels in the water that gets delivered to residents — which suggests treatment might be working.

All of the state's results were below the Environmental Protection Agency's suggested health advisory levels. Right now, the EPA doesn't regulate PFAS, though the agency announced plans to regulate two kinds of PFAS in drinking water in October.

Jackie MacDonald Gibson chairs Indiana University's Department of Environmental and Occupational Health and researches PFAS in rural water.

“It is very good news. Yeah, very good news. The levels are very low. I was surprised actually not to see more of the kind of legacy PFASs," she said.

MacDonald Gibson said, keep in mind, many of these water utilities are in the country and may be farther away from industrial sources of PFAS.

“But it is comforting to know anyway, in these smaller utilities — which are less equipped to handle any problems with PFAS than larger utilities — that these levels are low," she said.

Rebecca Thiele