Alarming PFAS Levels in Delray Beach Drinking Water
Toxic “Forever Chemicals” May be Accumulating in Drinking Water Aquifer
Tallahassee — The level of toxic PFAS chemicals in drinking water samples from the city of Delray Beach, Florida exceeds the safety limits in several states, according to laboratory results posted today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). In addition, reliance upon PFAS-contaminated reclaimed water and biosolid fertilizers may be making matters worse.
PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) are a family of chemicals directly linked to cancers, liver and thyroid diseases, among other ailments. PFAS exposure may also impact the immune system and reduce antibody responses to vaccines. Known as “forever chemicals,” PFAS do not break down in the environment and bio-accumulate in the food chain – including humans. They are widely used in hundreds of products ranging from non-stick pans to firefighting foam.
The City of Delray Beach recently submitted samples of its finished water, i.e. potable water, to Eurofins Labs, a laboratory certified by the State of Florida. It detected combined levels of PFAS in the city’s drinking water of 113.15 parts per trillion (ppt). Those levels are many times above legal limits in several states. By way of contrast, the EPA has issued a health advisory warning that levels of two PFAS – PFOA and PFOS – in drinking water should not exceed 70 ppt.
“Delray’s water would not be fit for consumption in New York, Michigan, Massachusetts, and a growing number of states,” stated Florida PEER Director Jerry Phillips, a former environmental enforcement attorney, pointing out that Florida has yet to adopt a PFAS standard. “While it may still be legal in Florida to drink water laced with PFAS, it is definitely not a good idea.”
PEER has been pressing state and local agencies to look into the problem and help determine the causes. One factor PEER points to is the high PFAS levels in reclaimed waters used to irrigate lawns and golf courses. That water seeps back into the aquifer that supplies drinking water.
Another source is biosolid fertilizers made from sewage sludge. Lab testing PEER arranged showed shocking PFAS levels of more than 52,000 ppt. These fertilizers are transferred to Palm Beach County and apparently resold for use on crops and plants across the state.
“Delray and other localities may be slowly poisoning themselves by continuing to recycle PFAS-laden gray water and fertilizers,” added Phillips, noting that some potable water PFAS scores were higher than reclaimed water. “As the term ‘forever chemicals’ implies, PFAS do not break down when they migrate through the soil back to aquifers – in fact they do the opposite.”
PEER is urging the cities, utilities, county and state health agencies to 1) notify the public about these findings concerning PFAS in drinking water; 2) recommend that the public filter its potable water before consumption using approved filters; and 3) pay for and install all filters necessary to properly protect the public’s health.
See the lab results: