HUNTSVILLE, Ala. -- The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced Thursday it has approved new testing that should allow more accurate detection of PFAS chemicals in drinking water.
The same chemicals have been found at above EPA recommended levels in drinking water in Lawrence County, which gets its water from the Tennessee River, in recent years.
That led to a lawsuit filed by the West Morgan-East Lawrence Water Authority against 3M, which made the chemicals for products like Scotchgard for decades. The company and the authority settled the lawsuit for $35 million.
The perfluorinated chemicals WHNT News 19 has been reporting on for the past few years, PFOA and PFOS, aren't the only ones in that family of chemicals.
The new testing ability announced by the EPA is designed to detect other versions of the chemicals.
Several years ago, 3M stopped making PFOS and PFOA, but it does produce similar chemicals, with a shorter carbon chain.
The concern around the chemicals is centered on the fact that PFAS chemicals, while very small, don't break down. So, even years later they're being detected in the Tennessee River and recently at old, closed landfills in Decatur. The chemicals have been linked to a variety of health problems.
The EPA said it is taking steps to address PFAS, including:
- developing a process for listing PFOS and PFOA as hazardous substances;
- making plans to propose nationwide PFAS drinking water monitoring;
- reviewing research to decide if certain PFAS belong on the Clean Water Act list.
At the same time, Congress last week had a chance to require PFAS testing for drinking water nationwide but pulled it out of a federal spending bill.
The EPA also said it's continuing to review information to determine the chemicals' toxicity, and, it's still reviewing treatment methods for removing PFAS from drinking water.