The Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM) recently announced that eight Alabama water systems showed levels of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctyl sulfonate (PFOS) that were above the threshold amounts detailed in the recent drinking water health advisory issued by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). PFOA and PFOS are synthetic chemicals often called PFCs, which are extremely resistant to breaking down in the natural environment, making them persistent for many years after production.
These chemicals were typically used to manufacture a variety of consumer products and have been linked to a number of health problems, including low birth weight, accelerated puberty, cancer, liver damage, and immune-system effects. According to ADEM, the sources of PFOA and PFOS in drinking water systems are generally the facilities that manufactured those compounds and industries that used those compounds in their manufacturing processes.
The water systems in Alabama where tests have shown concentrations of PFOS and PFOA to be above the final health advisory level are: West Morgan-East Lawrence Water Authority (which currently has warned customers not to drink or cook with tap water); Gadsden Water Works & Sewer Board; Centre Sewer Board; V.A.W. (Vinemont Anon West Point) Water Systems, Inc.; West Lawrence Water Co-op; Northeast Alabama Water District; Southside Water Works and Sewer Board; and, the Utilities Board of Rainbow City.
While the EPA’s health advisory is not an enforceable regulation or action, ADEM and the Alabama Department of Public Health have issued statements that said they will work together with the affected systems to bring them below the new advisory level. The EPA recommends using activated carbon filtering or high pressure membrane systems (e.g., reverse osmosis) to remove the substances from drinking water. Unfortunately, these systems are not standard methods of water treatment in Alabama.
If you would like more information on this subject, you can contact Rhon Jones or William Sutton, lawyers in our firm’s Toxic Torts Section. They can be reached at 800-898-2034 or by email at Rhon.Jones@BeasleyAllen.com or William.Sutton@beasleyallen.com.
Sources: ADEM and EPA
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