(NEXSTAR) — So-called “forever chemicals” have been found in 45% of the nation’s tap water, according to a government study, but is your Colorado water affected?
If you’re wondering whether or not your tap water might contain synthetic chemicals known as PFAS, nonprofit Environmental Working Group created an interactive map using official records and data from public drinking water systems to show where forever chemicals were found to be above and below the advised maximum concentration level, 4 parts per trillion (PPT).
EWG notes that while researchers used the highest quality data available, contamination levels are based on a single point in time and may not reflect changes to the water system or treatment efforts.
The synthetic compounds known collectively as PFAS are contaminating drinking water to varying extents in large cities and small towns — and in private wells and public systems, the U.S. Geological Survey said in July.
Colorado is one of a handful of states dotted with sample sites, from Durango to Grand Junction, and Denver to Pueblo. Roughly half had PFAS levels below 4 PPT, while the other half was above that level.
At a sample site in Boulder, the USGS found PFAS above 65 PPT, more than 16 times the advised maximum concentration level. Two sample sites, one near Denver and another north of Loveland, had PFAS levels between 12-65 PPT. Sample sites near Aspen Park and Cottonwood had levels between 3-12 PPT.
What are PFAS?
PFAS is an umbrella term for thousands of chemicals that are used to make nonstick pans, food packaging, fire-fighting foams, to-go boxes, furniture, rugs, clothing and more. The chemicals are so ubiquitous it would be nearly impossible for most Americans to rid their home of them.
The chemicals are both extremely common and potentially dangerous.
Described as “forever chemicals” because they don’t degrade naturally in the environment, PFAS have been linked to a variety of health problems, including liver and immune-system damage and some cancers.
Studies of lab animals have found potential links between PFAS chemicals and some cancers, including kidney and testicular, plus issues such as high blood pressure and low birth weight.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in March proposed the first federal drinking water limits on six forms of PFAS, or per- and polyfluorinated substances, which remain in the human body for years and don’t degrade in the environment. A final decision is expected later this year or in 2024.
“The number one thing we need to do is that we just need to stop it at the source,” Danny Katz of CoPIRG told KDVR in late July after PFAS were found in the Denver area. “Once PFAS get out there, they are really, really hard to do anything with. The best thing we can do right now is kind of control them and put them in an isolated place.”
Manufacturer 3M is offering to pay water providers between $10.5 billion and $12.5 billion after being sued over its use of PFAS. Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser and 22 other attorney generals rejected the settlement offer.
Weiser said in a statement: “Coloradans now suffer degraded water quality and public health injuries on account of the actions of 3m and other companies who manufactured and marketed PFAS.”
Colorado’s Department of Public Health and Environment Water Quality Division served Suncor with a noncompliance advisory in June, noting violations of the state’s Water Quality Control Act. CDPHE said that due to the severity of the violations, the state’s water division will decide whether a formal enforcement action is warranted.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.