Oakwood officials this year said the city will begin testing water for PFAS chemicals, and now a New England nonprofit wants to help mobilize local residents and hold governments and businesses accountable.
PFAS are per and polyfluoroalkyl substances that have been found in trace amounts in the city of Dayton’s water system. The man-made chemicals can be found in some firefighting foams, household products like water-repellent fabrics, nonstick products like Teflon, waxes, polishes and food packaging, according to the EPA.
Toxics Action Center is a New England non-profit that works with communities across the country to help with PFAS testing is now interested in partnering with area residents to make sure that testing gets done and water quality remains a priority with local governments.
Shaina Kasper is the Vermont and New Hampshire state director of Toxics Action Center, which helps local community groups organize in the fight to clean up hazardous waste sites and promote clean water, safe energy and zero waste.
Kaiser also helps facilitate the National PFAS Contamination Coalition, created in 2017, which represents nearly 20 communities in 11 states that have partnered to to be proactive in the early detection and identification of PFAS-related health problems.
“PFAS is a really huge problem for our health and our communities,” Kaiser said. “Chemical companies have duped us into using these chemicals. Unfortunately, the communities that they most poisoned never knew. An estimated 110 million Americans are drinking water that has been contaminated with PFAS chemicals.”
PFAS chemical compounds turned up in March 2018 at Dayton’s Ottawa Water Treatment Plant, the first time the compounds were detected in water after the treatment process. Dayton officials have repeatedly stressed that drinking water here is safe, and the trace amounts were below EPA standards.
Oakwood’s Drinking Water Consumer Confidence Report was released in April and revealed the city owns and operates a public municipal water system that is comprised of 8 production wells, 3 water treatment plants, 44 miles of underground water lines, 345 fire hydrants and a 1.5-million gallon water tower.
“The EPA does not require PFAS testing. Oakwood has not tested for it historically, but will test for PFAS in 2019, just as a safety precaution,” Oakwood Water Superintendent Gary Dursch said. “Oakwood produces its own water, but has an emergency tie-in agreement with the city of Dayton. All public water systems are required by the EPA to have contingency plans in place with another supplier as needed for emergencies or maintenance.”
Oakwood City Manager Norbert Klopsch said so far the city has not conducted any PFAS testing.
“We have … no plans to do so until clear guidance and direction is issued from the USEPA and Ohio EPA,” he said. “This is a matter that the regulating authorities need to address… Given that we produce nearly all of our own water, we have no reason to believe that this is a pressing matter for our water system.”
Groups of people that want to protect the water sources in their communities are helped by Kaiser’s nonprofit to get organized and make sure that consistent testing is done and water quality is reviewed in order to protect the public’s health.
“That is why we are reaching out to find out if there are people in the Oakwood and Dayton area that are concerned about PFAS in the water,” Kaiser said, after seeing Oakwood resident Matthew Currie’s concerns about water in a Dayton Daily News story. “Scientists and health professionals overwhelmingly agree that these chemicals are really toxic. We look at communities across the country where residents are challenging their governments to test the water and demand good water quality.”
Residents interested in the Toxics Action Center can go to www.toxicsaction.org or call 802-223-4099.
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