Forever Chemicals Found in TX Water Systems

Biologists and wastewater treatment experts conduct water quality experiments.
Biologist and wastewater treatment expert conducts water quality experiments. | Image by onuma Inthapong/Getty Images

Water systems across Texas have been flagged for excessive levels of “forever chemicals.”

According to data published by the EPA, 49 public water utilities in Texas possess forever chemicals that surpass the levels deemed safe by the federal agency, reported KERA News. Experts believe the total likely underreports the number of systems impacted since not everyone has shared its data, according to KERA News.

Earlier this month, The Dallas Express reported that federal officials had launched the first-ever restrictions on per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances — known as PFAS or forever chemicals. In elevated levels, these substances have been associated with an increased risk of cancer, lower fertility, and other medical conditions. The nickname forever chemicals comes from the fact that the substances do not break down and can remain in water, soil, or the human body indefinitely.

It does not take a large amount of PFAS to exceed safety limits. The EPA limits range from four to 10 parts per trillion, an exceedingly small relative amount. The agency estimates that the adoption and enforcement of these limits will reduce exposure for 100 million people across the country, leading to thousands of fewer deaths and illnesses, according to KERA News.

Not even one-quarter of all public water utility systems nationwide have submitted PFAS data to the EPA, according to KERA News. In Texas, over 420 systems have submitted results, with 113 (nearly 27%) revealing some level of PFAS in the water. Of those, 49 exceeded PFAS safe levels — including the Dallas Water Utility Eula Water Supply Cooperation in Clyde, per KERA News.

The dangers of forever chemicals continue to make headlines. Last year, 3M agreed to a $10.3 billion settlement over claims that the company had tainted drinking water nationwide with PFAS. The settlement proceeds are being used to test and clean up PFAS over a decade-plus timeline.

More recently, two Texas ranchers filed a federal lawsuit against waste management company Synagro, as reported by DX. The company is alleged to have sold sewage sludge to Texas farmers that they knew contained PFAS. As a result, the plaintiffs claim that their farms’ drinking water was found to contain forever chemicals at a level 13,000 times higher than federal health advisory guidelines.

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