Hundreds of US water systems have high levels of 'forever chemicals.' Where in Delaware?


Ever think about what might be in your drinking water? Recently published data shows you probably should.

Last month, the Environmental Protection Agency released data showing that nearly 300 of the country’s public drinking water systems had levels of PFAS − often known as “forever chemicals” − higher than allowed under recently-established limits.

Several Delaware water systems, including those in Wilmington, Newark, Smyrna, Lewes and Rehoboth Beach, were included in the list.

The limits were established last month following more than three years of research and planning. In upcoming years, water utility systems will be required to make changes.

THE NEW LIMITS: Delaware water systems don’t meet new PFAS standards. Is your water impacted?

What are PFAS?

PFAS, which stands for per and poly-fluoroalkyl substances, are a class of chemicals that have been used in a wide variety of manufacturing processes over the years. They can take hundreds or thousands of years to break down, hence the nickname.

When consumed, the chemicals can potentially cause adverse health impacts and have been classified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer as a “possible carcinogen.”

Elevated levels can lead to increased cholesterol levels and liver problems, and pregnant people exposed to high levels are considered to be at a higher risk of increased blood pressure or pre-eclampsia. They may also result in lower birth weights in newborns.

THE ANALYSIS: Hundreds of drinking water systems exceed new PFAS standards. It could grow to thousands.

How can I see whether my water is affected?

USA Today has created a searchable map that shows where higher-than-allowed levels were found.

While the map color-codes city limits, keep in mind that certain cities, such as Wilmington, provide water to unincorporated areas (such as Talleyville or Brandywine Hundred).

One Delaware water system has nearly 5x the allowable levels

Veolia Water, the largest private operator of water services in the U.S., has a Delaware system with nearly five times the allowable level of PFOA, one of the most studied “forever chemicals.”

So what is it doing to mitigate these test results?

According to Michael Bard, manager of communications and community relations at Veolia North America, the company has been proactive about addressing PFAS in several states over the last several years. In Delaware specifically, the company is building a new treatment facility that will have 42 carbon filters.

The filters treat PFAS, reducing them to nondetectable levels.

Bard said the facility is expected to be fully operational by early 2025, adding that the water provider anticipates no challenges in complying with the EPA’s rules by 2029 − the date water systems have to comply with the new standards.

Workers build a new PFAS treatment facility at Veolia North America’s Stanton Water Treatment Plant near Newport on May 15, 2024.Workers build a new PFAS treatment facility at Veolia North America’s Stanton Water Treatment Plant near Newport on May 15, 2024.

Workers build a new PFAS treatment facility at Veolia North America’s Stanton Water Treatment Plant near Newport on May 15, 2024.

“Given the regulations, we know that a lot of water systems are probably going to be looking for similar technologies,” Bard said. “We were very proactive in the procurement process and in thinking about supply chains, sourcing and securing those materials.”

The costs associated with the PFAS treatment project will likely be recovered by raising customer rates, Bard said.

“The cost of doing nothing is going to be far worse than the cost of doing something about this,” said Adam Lisberg, senior vice president of communications in Veolia’s municipal water division. “Nobody likes to pay more, but people want to know that they can have confidence in their water.”

USA Today reporters Austin Fast and Cecilia Garzella contributed to this report. Delaware Online/The News Journal reporter Molly McVety also contributed.

Got a story tip or idea? Send to Isabel Hughes at ihughes@delawareonline.com. For all things breaking news, follow her on X at @izzihughes_

This article originally appeared on Delaware News Journal: These Delaware water systems have higher-than-allowable levels of PFAS



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