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Environment, Energy and Transportation

Statewide monitoring of Oregon drinking water systems will check for PFAs

Oregon health and environmental regulators are monitoring water systems for these ubiquitous "forever chemicals," which don't break down in the environment and can remain toxic for decades or centuries.

Beginning this week (10/18), 150 public drinking water systems across Oregon are being analyzed for a type of manufactured chemical that could have harmful effects.

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) are jointly monitoring the water systems for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, collectively identified as PFAs. There are thousands of these chemicals that have been used since the 1940s, in everything from non-stick cookware to dental floss, as well as firefighting foams.

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Dave Emme manages the drinking water program for OHA.

“Larger water systems across the state sampled for these several years ago but the smaller water systems did not and were not required to by the EPA,” he told KLCC. “So that’s the data gap that we’re trying to fill with this effort.”

PFAs do not break down in the human body nor the environment, and have been found in fish, water, and soil across the world.

The Environmental Protection Agency continues to study PFAs, hoping to learn more about how many people have been exposed, and how to remove them from drinking water.
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