PFAS like those contaminating Campbell wells more dangerous than thought, EPA warns

Contamination in Town of Campbell, elsewhere on French Island so severe residents use bottled water
Campbell Pfas Update

WASHINGTON, D.C. (WKBT) — PFAS chemicals that contaminate drinking water, which have fouled well water in the Town of Campbell and other Wisconsin municipalities, are more dangerous than previously thought, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency warned Wednesday.

At the same time, the EPA announced that it is inviting states and territories to apply for $1 billion in grants to address PFAS and other emerging contaminants in drinking water, especially in small or disadvantaged communities.

“People on the front lines of PFAS contamination have suffered for far too long,” said EPA Administrator Michael Regan.

“That’s why EPA is taking aggressive action as part of a whole-of-government approach to prevent these chemicals from entering the environment and to help protect concerned families from this pervasive challenge,” Regan said.

The PFAS warning, one of four drinking water health advisories for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) the EPA released Wednesday, is the latest action under President Joe Biden’s action plan to deliver clean water and administrator Regan’s PFAS Strategic Roadmap.

The nonbinding health advisories set health risk thresholds for PFOA and PFOS at almost zero, erasing 2016 guidelines that had set them at 70 parts per trillion. The compounds are in a category of “forever chemicals” known as PFAS that have been used in consumer products and industry since the 1940s.

The “forever chemicals” moniker results from the fact that they take so long to dissipate. They are found in products such as firefighting foam, cardboard packaging, carpets and nonstick formulas, among others.

Blame for PFAS contamination of private wells in Campbell and elsewhere on French Island goes to foam that La Crosse firefighters previously used for drills at the La Crosse Regional Airport.

The contamination is so severe that residents can’t drink water from their wells, so state and federal agencies are providing bottled water for them.

U.S. manufacturers have phased out the chemicals voluntarily, but there are a limited number of ongoing uses, according to the EPA.

The $1 billion the EPA has designated to go to states is the first installment of $5 billion in Bipartisan Infrastructure Law grant funding.

The EPA actions Wednesday “highlight EPA’s commitment to use the best available science to tackle PFAS pollution, protect public health and provide critical information quickly and transparently,” said Radhika Fox, the EPA’s assistant administrator for water.

The EPA’s PFAS Strategic Roadmap sets timelines when the agency plans to take specific actions and commits to new policies to safeguard public health, protect the environment and hold polluters accountable.

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