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Toxic Chemicals Known as PFAS Detected in KY Drinking Water

Chemicals called PFAs, known as emerging contaminants, were detected in 81 municipal water treatment plants in Kentucky. (Adobe Stock)
Chemicals called PFAs, known as emerging contaminants, were detected in 81 municipal water treatment plants in Kentucky. (Adobe Stock)
November 29, 2019

FRANKFORT, Ky. – Chemicals called PFAS (short for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) have been found in Kentucky's drinking water.

Known as emerging contaminants, PFAS are found in the Teflon in non-stick cookware, food bags, some brands of dental floss and in fire fighting foam.

There is evidence that PFAS can accumulate in the body over time, and are linked to cancer and disruption of the thyroid and immune system.

John Mura, executive director of the office of communication for the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet, says this is the first time the state has tested for PFAS in drinking water.

"Like everyone else, we have seen the growing literature that these compounds are a health concern,” he states. “So six months ago, the Department for Environmental Protection decided that it would do a statistically valid sampling of Kentucky's drinking water plants."

Scientists tested 81 municipal water treatment plants supplying drinking water to around 50% of Commonwealth residents. At least one out of the eight different PFAS and related substances tested for were found in 41 plants.

For decades, Chemours – a Dupont-spinoff company – dumped PFAS from its West Virginia plant into nearby waterways, including the Ohio River.

Samples taken from drinking water that draws from the Ohio River tested positive for PFAS. However, Mura says levels of the chemicals remain low in Kentucky.

"The EPA has set a lifetime health advisory level on two compounds of PFAS of 70 parts per trillion,” he points out. “Our results show no samples – and we took 648 samples – and we had no results that came close to that."

Mura says state officials will be developing a strategy for continued monitoring of PFAS and testing of potential upstream sources.

Several states, including North Carolina and Vermont, have issued health advisories for PFAS in drinking water, and are working to place stricter limits on PFAS contamination beyond the Environmental Protection Agency's recommended 70 parts per trillion.

Nadia Ramlagan, Public News Service - KY