DNR finds ‘forever chemicals’ in 12 water supplies

Tama water among those identified

The Mississippi River, a source of drinking water for thousands of eastern Iowans, has PFAS, according to recent Iowa DNR tests. (Photo by Mark D. Tomer/Agricultural Research Service, USDA)

A sampling of about 70 community water supplies in Iowa found detectable levels of toxic chemicals that persist indefinitely in the environment in a dozen of them, according to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.

The DNR began its sampling late last year and published the last of its results this week on its website. The testing is meant to determine the prevalence of perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances — commonly referred to as PFAS or “forever chemicals” — in the state’s drinking water.

There are thousands of PFAS. The two most-studied of the group have been linked to cancers and other ailments and were a focus of the sampling, along with 23 other PFAS.

The water sources selected for the first round of testing were believed to be the most at-risk for contamination, using federal and state data that tracks the companies that have used or stored PFAS, areas where firefighting foam that contains PFAS was used, and others, said Corey McCoid, supervisor of the DNR’s Water Supply Operations.

None of the detections exceeded a non-mandatory federal guideline for the two most prominent PFAS, although the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is expected to revise that health advisory to be more strict and is considering mandatory regulations.

“Overall, we’re glad that it’s currently not above the health advisory,” McCoid said, “but as the EPA is looking to change that health advisory, I suspect we’ll have some facilities at that point in time that will be affected.”

Chief among them is Central City, where the DNR found PFAS subject to the advisory in combined concentrations of 61 parts per trillion, which approaches the guideline of 70 parts per trillion. The city has stopped using water from a contaminated well — except in cases of emergency need — and a DNR investigation is underway to determine the source of the contamination.

Kammerer Mobile Home Park, near Muscatine, might also be affected. The DNR found concentrations of 29 parts per trillion in its water.

The other cities with detections of the two PFAS in finished drinking water include:

Ames Water Treatment Plant: 9.6 parts per trillion

Burlington Municipal Waterworks: 7.2 parts per trillion

Camanche Water Supply: 12 parts per trillion

Iowa-American Water Company, in Davenport: 6 parts per trillion

Keokuk Municipal Water Works: 4.3 parts per trillion

Muscatine Power & Water: 7.6 parts per trillion

Rock Valley Water Supply: 2.1 parts per trillion

Sioux City Water Supply: 9.2 parts per trillion

Tama Water Supply: 5.5 parts per trillion

West Des Moines Water Works: 5.3 parts per trillion

Cedar Rapids and Iowa City treated water did not have detectable amounts, but each city had a well that did. Contaminated water from a well can be diluted in larger cities by uncontaminated water from other wells.

McCoid expects to test roughly 60 more water supplies in the coming months. Some of those will be in areas near the other detections. The cities with the detections in their finished water are required to test the water quarterly and report the results to the DNR.

This article was originally publish by and has been made available courtesy of Iowa Capital Dispatch: https://iowacapitaldispatch.com/2022/03/31/dnr-finds-forever-chemicals-in-12-water-supplies/