First-of-its kind study by Waterkeeper Alliance found 83% of the waters tested across the country were contaminated by dangerous PFAS chemicals READ THE REPORT HERE
Sarasota/Manatee/October 18, 2022 — Today, the 50th Anniversary of the Clean Water Act, Waterkeeper Alliance released a groundbreaking new analysis of American waterways that sounds the alarm on a PFAS pollution emergency. In a test of 114 waterways from across the country, 83% were found to contain at least one type of PFAS—dangerous per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances that are widely linked to serious public health and environmental impacts.
“We sampled above and below major industrial corridors along Bowlees Creek and Cow Pen Slough on the Suncoast. In Bowlees Creek we found 11 of the 55 PFAS compounds tested and in Cow Pen Slough we found four,” said Dr. Abbey Tyrna, Executive Director and Waterkeeper of Suncoast Waterkeeper.
A total of 113 local Waterkeepers, including Suncoast Waterkeeper, collected samples from 114 waterways across 34 states and the District of Columbia (D.C.). Independent analysis indicates a shocking level of contamination, with 94 participating Waterkeeper groups confirming the presence of PFAS in their waterways. Waterways in 29 states and D.C. were found to be contaminated by at least one, but most frequently, many revealed the presence of up to 35 different PFAS compounds.
“When we began testing waterways for PFAS earlier this year, we knew that our country had a significant PFAS problem, but these findings confirm that was an understatement. This is a widespread public health and environmental crisis that must be addressed immediately by Congress and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). To begin tackling this urgent problem, Congress should start by passing the Clean Water Standards for PFAS Act of 2022, and EPA must prioritize using the funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to coordinate national monitoring and adopt regulatory standards for PFAS contamination. This report provides the information necessary for federal and state governments to take action and protect the health and safety of our communities,” said Marc Yaggi, CEO of Waterkeeper Alliance.
These findings are an important step toward filling in a major data gap and validate the Alliance’s call to EPA for increased and widespread monitoring to gain a complete picture of PFAS contamination in all watersheds across the country. The average concentration found in Bowlees Creek by Suncoast Waterkeeper included (all units in parts per trillion or one drop in an Olympic-sized swimming pool):
- PFBA - 2.9 ppt*
- PFBS - 12.2 ppt (EPA Health Advisory Level 2,000 ppt)
- PFHpA - 7.2 ppt*
- PFHxA - 13.7 ppt*
- PFHxS - 6.1 ppt*
- PFNA - 1.2 ppt*
- PFOA - 9.3 ppt (EPA Interim Health Advisory for drinking water is 0.004 ppt)
- PFOS - 22 ppt (EPA Interim Health Advisory for drinking water is 0.02 ppt)
- PFPeA - 14.8 ppt*
- PFPeS - 1 ppt*
- 6:2 FTS - 6.2 ppt***
*No federal guidance on these PFAS compounds and analytes.
**Not an average. This analyte was not detected in the downstream waters.
We found much lower contamination levels in South Sarasota County along Cow Pen Slough.
- PFHxA - 1.3 ppt***
- PFOA - 1.8 ppt (EPA Interim Health Advisory for drinking water is 0.004 ppt)
- PFOS - 1.8 ppt (EPA Interim Health Advisory for drinking water is 0.02 ppt)
- PFPeA - 1.8 ppt***
Click here to view both lab reports.
Since at least the 1950s, PFAS have been widely used in manufacturing and are found in many consumer, commercial, and industrial products. Often referred to as “forever chemicals,” PFAS do not break down over time. Instead, these dangerous chemicals accumulate in people, wildlife, and the environment. As a result, PFAS have been found in surface water, air, soil, food, and many commercial materials. Scientific studies increasingly link these toxic chemicals to serious health conditions such as cancer, liver and kidney disease, reproductive issues, immunodeficiencies, and hormonal disruptions.
Despite serious health risks, there are currently no universal, science-based limits on the various PFAS chemicals in the United States. For many PFAS chemicals, the EPA has not even set a health advisory limit that would give the public a baseline to determine what amount of PFAS is unhealthy in drinking water. In most cases, the EPA is not monitoring these chemicals adequately, which is why these findings are so unique and important.
“Suncoast Waterkeeper is just beginning its sampling and advocacy efforts on this issue. We weren’t sure what we would find, but we were surprised at the amount of pollution captured during this effort. Many other potential sources of PFAS contamination on the Suncoast include wastewater treatment plants, wastewater and chemical spills, landfills, airports, and plastic waste. We cannot afford to continue to let harmful, forever compounds build up in our environment,” explains Dr. Tyrna.
This data plainly demonstrates that Congress and EPA must act with urgency to control persistent PFAS contamination across the country. The current lack of oversight puts the health and safety of communities and ecosystems across the nation at risk and results in costly cleanup and treatment activities to remove PFAS contamination after it has occurred.
To learn more about the Waterkeeper Alliance’s efforts to tighten restrictions on PFAS pollution, visit waterkeeper.org/pfas.