A new report finds concerning levels of PFAS contamination in waterways near Martinsburg and Parkersburg.
Environmental groups say the findings are more proof state policymakers should consider implementing stricter drinking water regulations.
Jenna Dodson, data scientist for the West Virginia Rivers Coalition, said the analysis by the Waterkeeper Alliance found 27 spots where nine different types of the man-made so-called “forever” chemicals were found in waterways in the Mountain State, along the Ohio River.
She pointed out in some locations, PFAS were detected at a concentration of 14.6 parts per trillion.
“That’s about 700 times higher than the EPA’s interim Drinking Water Health Advisory,” Dodson noted.
According to the report, more than 200 million Americans are exposed to PFAS through drinking water laced with the industrial chemicals commonly used in nonstick cookware, food packaging, and water- and stain-resistant clothing.
Dodson warned exposure to the chemicals can have far-reaching health consequences.
“I think something that hits home with folks, really, is that babies are being born with PFAS in their blood,” Dodson stressed. “And prenatal exposure to PFAS can cause low birth weight, reduced immune function, and really sets the stage for a lifetime of increased disease susceptibility.”
Dodson added state lawmakers could consider adopting water-quality criteria for certain PFAS and related chemicals which could then be enforced through industry permitting processes.
“It really is a critical issue that’s going to take policymakers, agencies, industries, water utilities and consumers all working together to protect public health,” Dodson contended.
On the federal level, the EPA said it is in the process of developing drinking water standards for the PFAS family of chemicals.