DeWine orders Ohio’s 1,500 public water systems be tested for ‘forever chemicals’

Credit: Rudy and Peter Skitterians /

Credit: Rudy and Peter Skitterians /

The nearly 1,500 public drinking water systems in Ohio will be tested for “forever chemicals” that can harm health, according to a plan announced Monday by the DeWine administration.

The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency and Ohio Department of Health will coordinate testing of the water systems that supply water for about 90 percent of the state population. It is expected to be completed by the end of 2020.

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They’ll be looking for the prevalence of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), which are man-made chemicals used in products such as carpet, upholstery, cookware, food packaging and firefighting foam. They’re known as forever chemicals because they don’t break down in the environment.

“We must fully evaluation the prevalence of PFAS in Ohio’s drinking water to protect public health and the state’s natural resources,” Gov. Mike DeWine said in a written statement. “This plan is the first step in learning if the chemicals have a widespread presence.”

There are no national drinking water standards for PFAS compounds. The health effects may depend on how long and how often someone is exposed to the PFAS family of chemicals. Some studies show exposure may impact growth and learning in children, women's fertility, cholesterol levels and the risk of certain cancers, according to the Ohio EPA PFAS website.

Kristy Meyer of Freshwater Future applauded the DeWine administration for the testing program but said Ohio should establish a drinking water standard for chemicals within the PFAS family.

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“Many other states around the nation and within the Great Lakes have developed or are developing their own drinking water standards in the absence of federal standards.” Meyer said. “No parent should have to worry whether the drinking water they provide their children is contaminated with these toxic chemicals.”

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