Public Lab Research note


How do we address forever chemicals in municipal water?

by hspencer22 | March 08, 2022 18:34 08 Mar 18:34 | #30106 | #30106

Introduction:

In 2019, residents of an Ohio River town called Paden City were informed by letter that their municipal drinking water contained levels of tetrachloroethylene that exceeded the maximum contaminant load for the past four quarters. This letter for the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources explained to residents there was no health concern and the water was safe to continue drinking. Upon further investigation, we discovered there are many towns across the country that are dealing with this contaminant, a chemical commonly used in dry cleaning solutions and industrial brake cleaning solution. There are over 600 EPA Superfund Sites on the National Priorities List due to public water supply contamination of tetrachloroethylene (PCE). Paden City's aquifer has been contaminated and the application to the National Priorities List of Superfund Sites was submitted in September of 2021. PCE is known to cause a slew of health impacts, most commonly relating to kidney issues and neurological impacts.

Our main concern:

Residents are concerned about the efficacy of remediation. The chemical is leaching into the aquifer through soil located in and around an old dry cleaning facility. Residents have also started compiling a health registry, which has shown alarming numbers of specific and rare illnesses impacting community members.

Obstacles and supporting information:

Currently, we are searching for an academic researcher to analyze our health registry results and, hopefully, begin an official health study in Paden City, a town of less than 2,800 residents. Currently, we have documented the following illnesses within 190 households: 80 people with kidney issues, 63 with unspecified neurological disorders (anything from involuntary eye twitching to neuropathy), 12 with colon cancer, 13 with multiple sclerosis, 7 with ALS, 5 with Leukemia, 24 people with trouble swallowing, 15 with bladder issues, 18 with brain cancer/tumors, 13 with skin cancer, 11 with breast cancer, 2 with Parkinsons, and 8 with prostate cancer. Although these numbers likely aren't "statistically significant" in such a small sample population, there is certainly cause for alarm. Now, we just need to get the EPA to acknowledge the health impacts of PCE not only in Paden City, but the plethora of other communities dealing with PCE contaminated drinking water.

Who is engaged in this concern?

Currently, I am working as a community organizer with two longtime Paden City residents who both recently moved their families out of town to escape the contaminated drinking water and vapor intrusions associated with this chemical. They are both active in completing the health registry. Residents in town have been told by the water supervisor and the city council members that the problem has been fixed and there is no further concern to human health. We are in the process of organizing a community meeting to share our health registry results and go over the findings from EPA water, vapor, and soil sampling in their investigation.

What are the initial questions?

What actions can we have residents take once they know the severity of the issue?

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The results you were given aren't "top of the line". To be honest, the book keeping is kind of shoddy. Normally, there would be reference to the test method used for the PCE testing. If they did it in house, there should be test methods, standardization, things like that. If it was sent to an outside lab, it would be PO numbers, finalized report numbers, etc. That would give a trail to follow. Doesn't look like they wanted any trails for anyone to follow. Good luck with your project.

Yes, they absolutely wanted the trail to be hard to follow. I did acquire the sample results that were given to the city from the lab they contracted to run the PCE tests. The sampling was not consistent, the data you see in the image shows the only times they sampled up to the latest date. I now have access to the PCE testing results from the EPA. They have been actively sampling since 2018.

I also discovered an email communication back in 2010 between the water supervisor and the WV Department of Health and Human Resources (they oversee public water infrastructure/drinking water in the state). The water supervisor told state level officials about the discovery of PCE in the water supply and the DHHR responded that the water was fine to drink and the city didn't need to mention it to residents. Shady things going on here!


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For finding a researcher to analyze health registry data and create a health study, the Center for Applied Environmental Science (CAES) might be a group to check out? @Fleer has posted about their support resources here: https://publiclab.org/notes/Fleer/01-27-2022/introducing-the-center-for-applied-environmental-science-caes.

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Thanks for sharing this resource! Turns out, we are working with one of the researchers listed on here. I had no idea he was part of this organization. Marc Glass has helped us do independent water sampling from the tap in homes throughout town.


@hspencer22 Great news that you are working with Marc Glass--his group is excellent. Please reach out to CAES if we can help with anything else. Thanks @bhamster for thinking of CAES and do continue sending folks our way!


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