How to avoid contamination from ‘forever chemicals’ like those found in Emmaus drinking water – The Morning Call

You may have seen the alarming news stories about PFAS in the drinking water supply of Emmaus and other municipalities across Pennsylvania. These chemicals have contaminated aquifers and wells used for public drinking water.

If your water comes from a well that you own, then you should also be concerned.

The Department of Environmental Protection found PFAS in one-third of Pennsylvania’s public water systems, although none has exceeded Environmental Protection Agency limits.

Beyond the health effects, the EPA and the American Bar Association stress PFAS contamination lowers real estate values, both in terms of market value appraisals and tax assessments. As a comparison, studies have shown fracking lowers property values ​​by as much as 15%, particularly in areas where there are concerns about contaminated water.

That means homes lose value, and local governments have to operate with reduced revenues. PFAS contamination may also increase the likelihood of future environmental or zoning regulations that restrict property owners.

A range of actions can be taken to prevent PFAS contamination.

Some contaminations, including the one in Emmaus, have resulted from the use of fire-fighting foams that contain PFAS during training exercises.

Fire departments should switch immediately to PFAS-free foams. They’ll need to adjust their training programs because the eco-friendly foams have different application methods. Fire departments, particularly volunteer departments, will need grants to fund alternative foams and cover training costs.

Legislators should ban the use of firefighting foams containing PFAS for training and testing purposes. The Pennsylvania Senate already passed Senate Bill 302, which would restrict the use of PFAS to protect firefighters and safeguard the environment.

Our legislators also need to ensure fire departments receive sufficient funds to swap out PFAS supplies and to provide the proper training for using PFAS-free foams. Future grants should stipulate that fire departments no longer use PFAS products.

Contact your Pennsylvania House representative and urge them to vote in favor of House Bill 1166 so the proposed PFAS legislation will become law.

This legislation is vital to protect the health of our communities and the well-being of our neighbors. PFAS are often called “forever chemicals” because they’re long-lasting chemicals that break down very slowly over time — or perhaps never.

PFAS are found in hundreds of everyday products, as well as more specialized materials such as firefighting foam.

The EPA says PFAS are detected in the blood of people and animals all over the world, and they are present at low levels in a variety of food products and in the environment because of their widespread use. Exposure to them over certain levels may result in adverse health effects, including low birth rate, cancer, liver damage and lower autoimmune responses.

Children and infants are especially vulnerable.

The bottom line is that we must protect Pennsylvania’s aquifers. An aquifer is like an underground lake. It helps to visualize it as a pot of rice while cooking. If you open the lid just before it is completely done, you’ll see a pot of wet rice.

The rice is like the soil, rock and other materials underground. There’s a lot of water flowing through the spaces between these particles. When a well is drilled, it goes into the aquifer, sort of like sticking a straw into the pot of wet rice, and pumps water out of the aquifer.

As wells draw water out of an aquifer, the water is usually replaced by more water, but the amount of water in the aquifer is not infinite. In the rice analogy, you could remove water from the pot through the straw, and the water will eventually be gone.

PFAS or other pollutants can find their way through the overlying ground layers into an aquifer, where they can be drawn up through wells.

When it comes to government efforts to ensure that our valuable water resources and drinking water are clean, most people think of the work done by the EPA and other federal agencies. But state and local government actions can also have an impact on clean water:

● Zoning ordinances (buffer strips, setbacks, etc.)

● Regulations, permits and inspections

● Public education and outreach

● Hazard mitigation

● Water infrastructure projects: For example, a 2016 Pennsylvania law makes $22 million available for grants or reimbursement for water and sewer projects. This reflects a $19 million increase over the previous year.

Our political leaders need to step up to address PFAS and other threats to clean water.

Mark Pinsley is the Lehigh County controller, small business owner and a veteran of the United States Army Reserves.

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