PFAS Chemical Pollution has been detected in Newberry’s Drinking Water, posing a health risk to 46 million people.   

Newberry, a quaint town in Florida, is now grappling with toxic “forever chemicals,” known as PFAS (Per- and polyfluorinated alkyl substances), which have been detected in its drinking water at levels exceeding the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) minimum reporting limits. This revelation adds Newberry to the unsettling statistic, with more than one in four public drinking water systems nationwide reporting similar issues, affecting approximately 46 million people.

PFAS, nearly indestructible chemicals used in nonstick and water-repellent household products, have raised serious health concerns. The EPA links PFAS exposure to an increased risk of cancer, as well as adverse effects on the liver, immune system, cardiovascular system, and human development. The chemicals persist in the environment, accumulating in the human body over time.

New data from the EPA, released this month, reveals that Newberry’s drinking water contains concentrations of PFAS at or above the agency’s minimum reporting levels. Two specific PFAS compounds were identified, with one exceeding the EPA’s limit by a significant 46.7%.

“I’m not worried at all,” reassures Newberry Mayor Jordan Marlowe. However, the EPA’s stance on PFAS suggests a different narrative, emphasizing the potential health risks even at low levels of exposure.

The issue extends beyond Newberry, painting a national picture of PFAS contamination. USA TODAY’s analysis of EPA data shows that of about 3,200 systems tested so far, 27%, or 854 systems, measured at least one PFAS compound above the EPA’s reporting levels. These forever chemicals have surfaced in nearly every state, impacting water systems that cater to both large and small populations.

A visual representation of the EPA’s records, as of November 9, illustrates the widespread nature of this problem. The map showcases the number of pollutants detected in various systems.

The data release is part of the EPA’s most comprehensive PFAS monitoring initiative, focusing on unregulated pollutants every five years. The effort aims to shed light on the extent of PFAS contamination in public water systems across the United States. The EPA anticipates collecting and publishing additional sample results over the next few years.

However, the absence of enforceable national drinking water standards for PFAS poses a significant challenge. With Georgia lacking binding maximum contaminant levels for these chemicals, many detections in Augusta, Georgia, were well above the EPA’s reporting levels. Local water systems face the daunting task of addressing PFAS contamination, with the associated technology being expensive and, consequently, a barrier to implementation.

Newberry is not alone in facing the complexities of addressing PFAS in drinking water. Large systems serving millions, like Atlanta, Houston, San Antonio, and others, have also detected PFAS compounds above reporting levels.

In light of these revelations, Mayor Marlowe’s confidence contrasts with the urgency expressed by environmental experts. The EPA recommends that individuals concerned about their drinking water quality contact their local providers to understand mitigation efforts and consider installing in-home filtration systems proven to remove PFAS.

The alarming presence of forever chemicals in Newberry’s drinking water calls for a collaborative effort to address the environmental and health implications. As communities grapple with the cost of treatment upgrades and the responsibility of polluters, the need for clear regulations and effective solutions becomes increasingly evident. The ongoing EPA initiative may uncover more contaminated water systems, underscoring the imperative for proactive measures to safeguard public health and water resources nationwide.