Report identifies threats to drinking water, public health

A new investigative report compiled by citizens groups and Alaska Community Action on Toxics (ACAT) identifies nearly 30 locations in Alaska where drinking water is contaminated by unregulated substances known to have adverse impacts on human health.

The 75-page report on threats to drinking water and public health in Alaska was released in Anchorage on Wednesday, Sept. 25 by the Alaska PFAS Action Coalition, Gustavus PFAS Action Coalition and Alaska Community Action on Toxics.

The report identifies the discovery of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) at over 100 individual sites in nearly 30 areas across Alaska. Ten of these communities have PFAS in their drinking water at levels deemed unsafe by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and it is likely that the number of communities with contaminated water will grow as more sampling is conducted throughout the state, the report said.

The report notes that 12 wells near the Valdez Airport, eight wells near Cordova Airport and six near Kenai Airport were sampled for 14 PFAS compounds in December 2018, with no wells showing detections of PFAS above the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation’s August 2018 action levels. In Valdez three wells had minimal detections of PFAS, and no PFAS were detected at or above detection limits in Cordova’s groundwater.

PFAS have been linked to health issues including liver and kidney damage, reproductive and developmental harm, immune system impairment and certain cancers. 

Meanwhile, said ACAT, the Dunleavy administration has rolled back protections and site investigations.

The report includes several recommendations, including prohibiting any further use of firefighting foams that contain PFAS, setting enforceable, health-protective contaminant levels in drinking water for PFAS, and requiring all public water systems in Alaska to test for PFAS.

The report further recommends requiring stringent and health protective clean-up of contaminated areas and remediation of groundwater cording to best available technologies and standards, and exposure assessments and medical monitoring to include firefighters and other first responders, as well as workers at contaminated facilities.