Don’t drink from the tap: Northeast states on alert after high levels of carcinogenic acid found in water supply
Even as the contaminated water crisis in Flint, Mich., continues to make headlines, communities in three separate Northeast states have been facing a crisis of their own: widespread contamination of water supplies with the toxic chemical perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA, or C8).
PFOA is one of the key ingredients in nonstick cookware and is also used in plastics, wax paper coatings and stain-resistant fabrics. It is a known toxin that accumulates and persists in the human body. Studies have linked PFOA with cancer and with immune malfunction in children.
“It stays in the body for many, many years, and it turns out to interact with processes in our body,” said Harvard environmental health researcher Philippe Grandjean, as reported by NPR.
Don’t drink the water
The story began in 2013, when a man named Michael Hickey began to wonder if his father’s death from kidney cancer might be related to his job at a PFOA factory in Hoosick Falls, NY. Hickey worried about the plant’s proximity to village wells, so he paid to have the well water tested.
The tests found PFOA levels above the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) safe threshold of 400 parts per trillion. Followup tests near the factory came up at 18,000 parts per trillion, 45 times the safe limit. In November 2015, the EPA said residents should stop drinking or cooking with local well water. That ban was recently lifted, but many residents have said they will stick with bottled water for now.
Just across the border in North Bennington, Vt., high PFOA levels were found in private wells near a former plastics factory. The soil around local homes tested at higher than 20 parts per trillion, the safe level set by the state Department of Health.
Communities in New Hampshire have also found high levels of PFOA contamination in recent months.