PFAS

Washougal discovers toxic “forever chemicals” in water

The City of Washougal detected harmful “forever chemical” traces in its drinking water.

According to a City news release, City employees detected slightly elevated levels of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substance (PFAS) at each City’s six Wellheads between February and may 2024 during routine tests.

In a news release, the City said that the levels were “below the State Action Level established by the Washington State Department of Health”.

PFAS is a grouping of manufactured synthetic chemicals that are widely used to make household products such as nonstick cookware and glass cleaners. They can also be found in fabrics, floor polishes and paints. Carpets and water resistant clothing and carpets.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, PFAS have been linked to a number of health risks including an increase in cholesterol and obesity, hormonal disruption, decreased vaccine response, decreased fertilty, increased blood pressure while pregnant, developmental delays among children, and an increased risk for prostate, kidney, and testicular carcinomas.

At least one report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that PFAS is likely to be in the bloodstreams at least 97% Americans.

The Post-Record repeatedly asked for comments from Washougal Public Works director Trevor Evers. However, in the city’s press release, Evers stated that “the safety and health of our residents is our number one priority.”

Evers said, “We have taken immediate action to ensure that our drinking water is safe and in compliance with regulatory standards.” The City, Evers added, “is investigating interim measures” such as testing and monitoring the water quality, evaluating the treatment technologies to remove the PFAS from water supplies, and investigating the potential sources of PFAs, as well the extent of the PFAS contamination of the local groundwater, according to a news release, “to safeguard the community’s supply of water.”

In a news release, City Manager David Scott said: “We are committed transparency and proactive communication with residents.” The community will receive regular updates on PFAS test results and our ongoing efforts in addressing this issue.

The EPA established enforceable maximum contaminant limits for drinking water in April 2024. These levels are 4 parts per trillion.

According to the release, the recommended limits are “based on long-term PFAS exposure throughout a person’s lifetime and represent a conservative amount at which adverse effects can be expected over the course of a lifetime drinking water,” even for health-sensitive populations.

The news release said that “PFAS can persist in the environment for long periods of time.” The new EPA regulations highlight the urgency in monitoring and managing contaminants. Public water systems are required to perform initial monitoring by 2027, and corrective measures, if needed, by 2029.

Washougal’s discovery of PFAS contamination in the municipal water system is not unique.

In at least one well, the city has been testing its water for PFAS since 2022. Camas is one of Washington’s first communities to do so. Camas shuts down Well 13 near Louis Bloch Park, in downtown Camas during the non-summer, or when demand for water is low. The city notifies the public once the well is turned back on.

Steve Wall, Camas Public Works director, told city officials that PFAS are persistent in the environment in January 2024. “And they are not easy to eliminate.” “They don’t degrade… so we are trying to catch-up with something that’s been in our environment for 70 or 80 years.”

Camas officials have approved a contract worth $1,61 million with an environmental engineering company in April 2024 to address PFAS in drinking water.

Residents of Camas and Washougal who are interested in learning more about PFAS, and how the local, state and Federal jurisdictions are working to locate and treat these “forever chemical” are invited to an open house in Camas on July 9. The City of Camas will host an open house in collaboration with the Washington State Department of Ecology and Clark County Public Health as well as the Washington State Department of Health on Tuesday, July 9 from 5:30 to 7:00 p.m. at Lacamas Lake Lodge located at 227 N.E. Lake Road, Camas.

For more information about PFAS testing and mitigation efforts, visit cityofwashougal.us/PFAS.

Statewide PFAS testing results can be accessed through the Washington State Department of Health’s PFAS Dashboard at doh.wa.gov/data-and-statistical-reports/washi ngton-tracking-network-wtn/pfas/dashboard.