Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration informed that a statewide sampling program of drinking water supplies found concentrations of perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, chemicals that are known collectively as PFAS.
PFAS have been named “forever chemicals” because they and their breakdown products are extremely persistent, lasting thousands of years or more. These highly toxic chemicals are used in products like nonstick cookware, carpets, firefighting foam and fast-food wrappers.
As reported by The Morning Call, of more than 400 sites tested across Pennsylvania, about one-third were found to contain one of the chemicals, but only two were above federal guidelines, according to results posted online Thursday by the Department of Environmental Protection.
The sites with positive tests were in more than two dozen counties.
Studies have found “associations” between the chemicals and cancer, thyroid disease, ulcerative colitis and other health issues, although state officials say their effects on human health are not fully understood.
Two of the results were above the federal government’s health advisory level of 70 parts per trillion for the combined concentrations of perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl chemical substances.
One result, from a well at an electrical equipment manufacturer by University Park Airport just outside State College, was slightly over the limit. Another result, from a well in Saegertown in Crawford County, was nearly three times the limit.
The statewide sampling began in June 2019, and ended in March.
The chemicals have been found increasingly in public water systems and private wells around the country after the federal government in 2013 ordered public water systems with more than 10,000 customers to test for it.
About four dozen samples were taken in Bucks and Montgomery counties, where PFAS contamination has been traced to sources including Horsham Air Guard Station and the former Naval Air Warfare Center.
State officials have said that 493 public water systems in Pennsylvania are located within half a mile of a potential source of PFAS contamination, such as military bases, fire training sites, landfills and factories.