Iowa Department of Natural Resources working to rid water supply of PFAS

The move comes as the EPA is tightening restrictions on what it considers acceptable levels of “forever chemicals.”
The Iowa Department of Natural Resources is staying ahead of the game on PFAS testing, even as the EPA tightens its standards on the chemicals.
Published: Mar. 24, 2023 at 10:12 PM CDT
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COUNCIL BLUFFS, Iowa (WOWT) - What we can’t see in the tap water we drink has always had our attention.

Manmade chemicals like PFAS, per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances, have been around since the 1940s. Iowa has been working to get ahead of what the EPA is now proposing nationwide.

“PFAS has been a concern for a number of years now,” said Corey McCoid with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. “That’s why we started our state PFAS Action Plan back in January of 2020.”

McCoid explains the Iowa plan has already covered three tiers of water testing in the state. While they wait on the EPA to determine the exact benchmark for allowable levels, they’ll keep testing and posting results online.

“Anybody that has a red dot would be around two to four parts per trillion,” McCoid said. “We put them on quarterly monitoring at that point, and then if they were above the four parts per trillion, they then have to conduct public notification, to let the public know what’s in their drinking water.”

Council Bluffs Water Works general manager Doug Drummey said this will be an expensive rule to implement. They’re in the green on the dashboard, but it will be difficult for some of the smaller places across the state and country to pay for the needed testing.

“We’ll be doing technical assistance to small utilities all over the country, helping them figure out what technologies to use, helping them install it, helping them analyze the data and understand the cost of all of that as well,” said Jonathan Pressman with the EPA’s Center for Environmental Solutions and Emergency Response.

12,000 different varieties of these manmade chemicals can make it into our drinking water. Research indicates these contaminants can lead to various cancers, low birthrates, and other complications. The EPA says its proposal to tighten PFAS standards would reduce illness and save thousands of lives in the U.S.

“If you’re drinking water contaminated, it’s constant,” said Susan Pinney with the Center for Environmental Genetics. “The health effects as a whole are probably more substantial than other chemicals in our environment.”

As for what we can do, McCoid says many newer filtration devices for home use can filter out PFAS contaminants.