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Statewide monitoring of drinking water systems will check for PFAs

Rephile Water

Beginning this week (10/18), 150 public drinking water systems across Oregon are being analyzed for a type of manufactured chemical that could have harmful effects.

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) are jointly monitoring the water systems for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, collectively identified as PFAs. There are thousands of these chemicals that have been used since the 1940s, in everything from non-stick cookware to dental floss, as well as firefighting foams.

Examples of How Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) Enter the Environment and Water
U.S. Government Accountability Office
Examples of How Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) Enter the Environment and Water

Dave Emme manages the drinking water program for OHA.

“Larger water systems across the state sampled for these several years ago but the smaller water systems did not and were not required to by the EPA,” he told KLCC. “So that’s the data gap that we’re trying to fill with this effort.”

PFAs do not break down in the human body nor the environment, and have been found in fish, water, and soil across the world.

The Environmental Protection Agency continues to study PFAs, hoping to learn more about how many people have been exposed, and how to remove them from drinking water.

Copyright 2021, @KLCC.

Brian Bull is an assistant professor of journalism at the University of Oregon, and remains a contributor to the KLCC news department. He began working with KLCC in June 2016.   In his 27+ years as a public media journalist, he's worked at NPR, Twin Cities Public Television, South Dakota Public Broadcasting, Wisconsin Public Radio, and ideastream in Cleveland. His reporting has netted dozens of accolades, including four national Edward R. Murrow Awards (22 regional),  the Ohio Associated Press' Best Reporter Award, Best Radio Reporter from  the Native American Journalists Association, and the PRNDI/NEFE Award for Excellence in Consumer Finance Reporting.