For Immediate Release: Thursday, December 19, 2019
Contact: Chandra Rosenthal (303) 898-0798; Kirsten Stade (202) 265-7337
Colorado Lags in Controlling Forever Chemicals
Dangerous Levels of PFAS in Drinking Water Without Enforceable Limits
Denver — Colorado residents are drinking water laced with dangerous levels of toxic chemicals subject to no state or federal controls. Lagging well behind actions taken in other states, the response by Colorado authorities is split, timid, and very limited in scope, according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).
PFAS are called “forever chemicals” because they do not break down in the environment, and bio-accumulate in the food chain – and in us. Human exposure to PFAS, even at very low levels, is associated with cancer, birth defects, developmental damage to infants, and impaired liver, kidney, and immune system functioning.
The citizens of north metro Denver and Commerce City are drinking water that is unsafe. The 2019 Water Quality Report for South Adams County reveals that the average amounts of PFAS compounds found in public drinking water are at high levels. Yet, the South Adams Water District and Sanitation District contends these levels are “safe to drink and for household use.” Currently, there is no enforceable contamination limits for PFAS in drinking water but –
Several states have set, or are in the process of setting, maximum limits well below the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Lifetime Health Advisory of 70 parts-per-trillion (ppt) for two of the roughly 5,000 PFAS;
Colorado’s Attorney General has called for a standard more protective of public health than that of what the South Adams District and Colorado Department of Health and Environment are recommending; and
Colorado is only examining 30 PFAS compounds rather than trying to regulate all these compounds as a class instead of on a substance by substance basis.
“Rather than using an outdated standard to regulate a handful of these dangerous substances, Colorado should be leading the country in public health protection, instead of lagging behind,” stated Rocky Mountain PEER Director Chandra Rosenthal, noting that several states are setting limits much stricter and more inclusive than Colorado is considering. “Other states are issuing health warnings on water Coloradans are drinking every day.”
The South Adams Water District tests show PFAS levels cumulatively exceed 70 ppt EPA Health Lifetime Advisory. In fact, the maximum amount average found in the public’s water is over 115 ppt, several times the limits being imposed in other states.
“The public should not be paying for water that is unsafe to drink,” Rosenthal added. “The Water District should reimburse its customers for the purchase of filters that remove PFAS for their taps.”
More than 200 facilities are producing or importing tons of PFAS for use as fire retardants, repellents, furniture, take out containers, and non-stick cookware, among other applications. In addition, PFAS is reaching water sources through illegal dumping, sewage sludge applied on land as fertilizer, and leaching from landfills.