The Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) is working with the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM) to address the issue of contaminated tap water in 8 North Alabama water systems.
In an advisory issued yesterday, the ADPH advised pregnant women, nursing mothers, and families who mix infant formula with tap water to seek out other water sources for the time being.
You can’t make the water safe by boiling it! It’s contaminated by chemicals used in making non-stick cookware and other industrial uses. From ADPH:
On May 19, 2016, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a final health advisory for perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooactanoic acid (PFOA).
These compounds are man-made chemicals that resist heat, oil, stains, grease and water. They are found in products such as nonstick cookware, carpet protection products, firefighting foams, and waterproof clothing. PFOS and PFOA in drinking water are usually from facilities that manufactured these compounds and industries that used them in their manufacturing processes.
Water systems in Alabama where tests have shown concentrations of PFOS and PFOA to be above the newly released health advisory level are as follows:
- West Morgan-East Lawrence Water Authority
- Gadsden Water Works and Sewer Board
- Centre Water and Sewer Board
- V.A.W. (Vinemont Anon West Point) Water Systems Inc.
- West Lawrence Water Co-op
- Northeast Alabama Water District
- Rainbow City Utilities Board
- Southside Water Works and Sewer Board
The ADPH issued this warning in response to revised EPA regulations about safe levels of PFOS and PFOA in drinking water. When the EPA lowered the “safe” levels, these 8 water systems were affected. There’s nothing new about the situation; the water has contained the chemicals all along, but the latest studies show that the previously allowed levels may be dangerous to young children and cause birth defects.
This is serious, y’all.
In Pennsylvania, residents who leave near the closed Willow Grove Naval Air Station are receiving free bottled water because their wells and tap water is contaminated with both chemicals.
Contamination is not a new issue at Willow Grove, now called Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Willow Grove or NASJRB Willow Grove. For at least 20 years some people who worked on the base — and their family members — have suspected their cancers were connected to the same contaminants but no direct link has been admitted or proven.
The base was shuttered in 2011 and the Pennsylvania Air National Guard took over the facility. Since 2014, bottled water has been brought in for the handful of people who still work on the base in security and administrative positions.
It’s a problem across the county. In 2015, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) released a report which found PFOA present in 94 public water systems. And this was before the EPA revised its 2009 guidelines:
The amounts are small, but new research indicates that it can be hazardous even at the tiniest doses. PFOA and closely related fluorinated chemicals – including PFOS, once used to make Scotchgard – can cause cancer, birth defects and heart disease and weaken the immune system.
Even the lowest level of PFOA detected by the water testing, which was mandated by the Environmental Protection Agency, was about five times higher than what’s safe to drink, according to the new research. This means that even if the EPA has not reported finding PFOA in your drinking water supply, it could still be contaminated.
The Alabama Legislature has all but gutted the Alabama Department of Environmental Management. No doubt there will now be calls from legislators responsible for those cuts to have the federal government step in and help clean up the mess.
In the meantime, please help spread the word to friends and family in the affected areas.