DNR finds ‘forever chemicals’ in 12 water supplies
A second round of tests is slated to start later this spring
The Mississippi River, a source of drinking water for thousands of eastern Iowans, has PFAS, according to 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.
The water supplies with no detectable amounts of the main PFAS in their treated drinking water included:
Greenfield Municipal Utilities
Corning Municipal Water Department
Rathbun Regional Water Association
Black Hawk County
Waterloo Water Works
Buena Vista County
Sioux Rapids Water Department
Greene Municipal Water Supply
HWH Corporation, Tipton
Osceola Water Works
Spencer Municipal Water Utility
Lamoni Municipal Utilities
Leon Water Supply
Big River United Energy, Dyersville
Manchester Water Supply
Central Water System, Okoboji
Milford Municipal Utilities
Spirit Lake Waterworks
Hampton Municipal Water Works
Panora Water Works
Eldora Water Supply
Iowa Falls Water Department
Missouri Valley Water Supply
Ida Grove Water Utility
Amana Society Water System North
Colfax Water Supply
Prairie City Water Works
Iowa City Water Department
University Water System, Iowa City
Fort Madison Municipal Water Works
Cedar Rapids Water Department
Hiawatha Water Department
Lisbon Water Supply
Wapello Municipal Water Works
Winterset Municipal Waterworks
Mahaska Rural Water, New Sharon
Saint Ansgar Water Supply
Mark Twain Meadows Homeowners
Clarinda Water Plant
Shenandoah Water Department
Palo Alto County
Graettinger Municipal Water Supply
Des Moines Water Works
Council Bluffs Water Works
Country Estates Mobile Home Park
Montezuma Municipal Water Supply
Wall Lake Water Supply
Harlan Municipal Utilities
Hawarden Water Supply
Rural Water System #1
Creston Water Supply
Eddyville Municipal Water Department
Ottumwa Water Works
Carlisle Water Supply
Kalona Water Department
Freeport Water District, Decorah
Sergeant Bluff Water Supply
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