Thornton detects toxic ‘forever chemicals’ in drinking water supply, but say don’t panic

Levels of chemicals forever linked to cancer and birth defects — known as PFAS — detected in Thornton’s water supply exceed new federal health advisory levels more than 1,000 times, said city ​​officials.

The existence of the chemicals is a concern but not a crisis, Thornton officials said in a statement.

In June, the Environmental Protection Agency reduced acceptable levels of one type of PFAS from 70 parts per trillion to 0.004 parts per trillion.

“Essentially, the EPA wants the limit to be as close to zero as possible, because a growing body of research has shown how toxic these compounds are,” Philippe Grandjean, an assistant professor of environmental health at Harvard, wrote online. for the university’s TH Chan. School of Public Health.

Chemical concentrations above the EPA’s new acceptable level mean people drinking the water need to be told, Thornton spokesman Todd Barnes said. And the new levels set by the EPA mean that the results of tests carried out in May at the Wes Brown water treatment plant and the Thornton water treatment plant are too high.

Thornton isn’t alone after the EPA’s latest changes. Cities across the country — such as Mobile, Alabama, Evanston, Illinois, and Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill, North Carolina — have issued similar warnings. Ultimately, thousands of water utilities are expected to issue PFAS advisories.

These health action levels are intended to serve as an early warning while the EPA develops its own more formal regulations for the compounds, Barnes said.

Under the new guidelines, the water from those plants has been too high for at least 2020, said Martin Kimmes, the city’s water treatment and quality manager. The city serves water to approximately 160,000 people.

Perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA, compounds were tested at 5.4 parts per trillion at the Wes Brown plant and 7.1 parts per trillion at the Thornton water plant. These are 1,350 and 1,775 times higher than the federal health advisory limit, respectively. Another compound, called PFOS, has been tested 100 and 175 times higher than acceptable limits at the Wes Brown and Thornton plants, respectively.

Kimmes said the sources of the chemicals aren’t immediately clear, but city officials stopped using some wells they draw water from and began treating other water sources with it. new chemicals to extract PFAS.

Currently, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment does not recommend that Thornton customers stop drinking their water, Kimmes said. However, some populations at greater risk of exposure — those who are pregnant or breastfeeding or children under five — could use filters to further reduce their risk.

PFAS compounds are used to make a wide variety of products such as carpets or rugs, kitchen utensils, cosmetics, fabrics, food packaging, etc. Colorado lawmakers passed legislation this year to phase out the sale of some of these products by banning their sale.

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