Thursday, April 6, 2023

Forever chemicals and our water supplies

adirondack regional airport sign

I wrote about recent regulatory actions on so-called “forever chemicals” at the state and federal level. First, I needed to learn about the complex category of synthetic chemicals. Check out my explainer.

PFAS, which are carbon-fluorine compounds used in countless consumer goods, do not break down easily in the environment and can contribute to human health risks, including cancer and other issues. The Environmental Protection Agency has started the process to require public water providers across the country test for the most common types of PFAS (known as PFOS and PFOA) and remove them from their supply if detected.

I still have a lot to understand about how PFAS are impacting Adirondack waters and whether they pose a risk to human health, fish populations and water supplies. Evidence has started to emerge that in some places in the park PFAS contamination is extensive, like at the Adirondack Regional Airport near Lake Clear, but initial testing at the park’s largest public water providers mostly did not detect PFAS. (A couple instances of PFAS registering in samples may have been the result of an error or did not recur in future testing.)

We will be learning more about the extent of PFAS contamination at the Adirondack Regional Airport, where decades of use of firefighting foam has contaminated soils and water in the area. The state declared the airport a superfund site. The town of Harrietstown is moving forward with contamination studies and remediation, while also joining a nationwide lawsuit against PFAS manufacturers like 3M and dozens of others.

This first appeared in Zach’s weekly “Water Line” newsletter. Click here to sign up.

Photo at top of Adirondack Regional Airport sign, Adirondack Explorer file photo

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Zachary Matson has been an environmental reporter for the Explorer since October 2021. He is focused on the many issues impacting water and the people, plants and wildlife that rely on it in the Adirondack Park. Zach worked at daily newspapers in Missouri, Arizona and New York for nearly a decade, most recently working as the education reporter for six years at the Daily Gazette in Schenectady.

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