3M to provide new drinking water wells for Camanche

By: - January 10, 2023 2:47 pm

Several Mississippi River towns have water supplies contaminated by PFAS. (Photo by Perry Beeman/Iowa Capital Dispatch)

The Mississippi River town of Camanche is set to get two new deep wells for drinking water to replace shallower ones that are contaminated by “forever chemicals,” according to the Camanche city administrator.

3M Company has been a major manufacturer of perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances — commonly known as PFAS — and its facility across the river near Cordova, Illinois, has been identified as the likely source of contamination.

In an agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 3M will pay to mitigate the drinking water contamination of the Camanche municipal water supply along with private wells in the area. That can be accomplished with new, deeper wells or treatment systems.

For Camanche, the solution 3M has proposed is two new wells. If the EPA approves the plan, those wells might be online in mid- to late-2024, City Administrator Andrew Kida said.

Camanche has three wells. Two are shallower and have been the primary sources of drinking water for the city’s residents. The deep well — which goes to a depth of about 1,290 feet — is not contaminated but has been used as a backup during periods of high water demand.

Kida said testing of that well’s capabilities was underway this week to determine whether it could be used as a primary source to diminish the amount of PFAS that is in the city’s treated drinking water.

Tests in October of the city’s water found concentrations of two of the chemicals were 3 parts per trillion for PFOA and 11 parts per trillion for PFOS.

The EPA’s interim health advisories for the chemicals — or the speculative safe thresholds — are 0.004 and 0.02 parts per trillion, respectively.

It’s unclear how soon the city might be able to switch to the deep well as the primary source of water.

“If we can get that thing chugging, we may have even lower levels,” Kida said. “At these levels — if you read the information out there — these are levels that require a really long-term exposure to create any serious issues or concerns to people in at-risk categories.”

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Jared Strong
Jared Strong

Senior reporter Jared Strong has written about Iowans and the important issues that affect them for more than 15 years, previously for the Carroll Times Herald and the Des Moines Register.