Kennewick, WA Detects PFAS in Drinking Water Above State Limits

Kennewick, Washington detects PFAS in its drinking water at 17.9 parts per trillion, exceeding the state's action level of 15 ppt. The city plans to upgrade its water treatment system to comply with new federal limits, potentially leading to increased water rates.

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Bijay Laxmi
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Kennewick, WA Detects PFAS in Drinking Water Above State Limits

Kennewick, WA Detects PFAS in Drinking Water Above State Limits

The city of Kennewick, Washington has detected PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) in its drinking water at 17.9 parts per trillion (ppt), exceeding the state's action level of 15 ppt. The Washington State Department of Health recommends that pregnant women, breastfeeding mothers, and those mixing infant formula with tap water consider using an alternative water source as a precaution.

Why this matters: The detection of PFAS in Kennewick's drinking water highlights thewidespread issue of contamination in water sources across the country, putting public health at risk. As the EPA sets stricter limits on PFAS levels, cities and towns nationwide will need to invest in infrastructure upgrades, potentially leading to increased water rates for consumers.

The PFAS levels were detected in samples collected on March 12, 2023, as part of the city's four-times-a-year monitoring schedule. The specific type of PFAS found in Kennewick's water, perfluorooctane sulfonic acid, poses a risk to human health, particularly for children up to age 5, pregnant women, and people with weakened immune systems.

PFAS are known as "forever chemicals" because they never disappear from the environment and can build up in animals, fish, birds, plants, and people. They are produced to make various products, including stain-resistant carpets and fabrics, nonstick pans, and firefighting foam. According to the Washington State Department of Ecology, "Almost all Americans have some type of PFAS in their blood."

The federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has set a goal of having no perfluorooctane sulfonic acid in drinking water, with enforcement action possible at 4 ppt. In response to the new federal limits released by the EPA in April 2023, the city of Kennewick expects to need to add infrastructure to its water treatment system to comply with the regulations.

Kennewick has contracted with RH2 Engineering to find options to treat or eliminate PFAS from its Ranney Collector, the source of the city's drinking water. The potential costs of these improvements may be passed on to customers through increased water rates. The city expects to need to complete the necessary upgrades to its water treatment system by April 2029.

While the amount of PFAS found in Kennewick's drinking water is equivalent to a little less than a drop in an Olympic-size swimming pool, the city emphasizes that exceeding the state action level does not necessarily mean individuals will get sick or experience health problems. However, as a precaution, the Washington State Department of Health advises the water system to take action to bring the PFAS level below 15 ppt for long-term drinking.