Testing Shows The Susquehanna River Is Contaminated With High Levels Of A Hazardous Chemical

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Credit: Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper Association - - Keutz Creek

HAVRE DE GRACE - Testing from the Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper Association revealed that the Susquehanna is contaminated with polyfluoroalkyl substances or PFAS.

What are PFAS?

PFAS are a group of manufactured chemicals used in products since the 1940s. They are used in a variety of consumer, commercial and industrial products. Two of the most common PFAS are PFOA and PFOS.

According to the EPA, PFAS are long-lasting and can take centuries to break down entirely. Due to their propensity to linger in the environment, PFAS can be found in the blood of people and animals worldwide.

On August 26, 2022, the EPA proposed designating two of the most widely used PFAS as hazardous substances. The EPA released an interim recommendation for acceptable PFAS levels in drinking water, stating that PFOA levels should remain below .04 parts per trillion and PFOS levels should remain below .02 parts per trillion.

The EPA says that exposure to certain levels of PFAS may lead to various adverse health effects. Current peer-reviewed scientific studies have shown that PFAS can cause decreased fertility or increased high blood pressure in pregnant women, Developmental effects or delays in children, Increased risk of some cancers, immunodeficiency, and more. 

You can learn more about PFAS here.

How many PFAS are in the Susquehanna river?

The Lower Susquehanna Riverkeepers Association sampled the Kreutz Creek, which feeds the Susquehanna, as a part of a study testing 113 waterways across the United States for the presence of PFAS. According to the Riverkeepers Association, the results for the Susquehanna were the worst among all samples collected. The samples showed levels of PFOS at 374.3 parts per trillion (ppt) and PFOA at 847 ppt in addition to 25 other PFAS compounds at very high levels. These levels are thousands of times higher than the EPA deemed acceptable for drinking water.

In a statement about their findings, the Riverkeepers Association asked the EPA to do more to regulate these chemicals.

“This data plainly demonstrates that Congress and EPA must act with urgency to control persistent PFAS contamination across the country. The current lack of oversight puts the health and safety of communities and ecosystems across the nation at risk and results in costly cleanup and treatment activities to remove PFAS contamination after it has occurred.”

What does this mean for residents of Havre de Grace?

Havre de Grace gets its water from the Susquehanna, which is later treated at the Havre de Grace Water Treatment Plant. Although this data is alarming, the EPA deemed Havre de Grace’s drinking water as safe in 2021. Fish from the Susquehanna may be contaminated with PFAS, but not at levels that would immediately cause adverse health effects. 

If you are concerned about PFAS levels in your water, you can contact the Havre de Grace city government or the Department of Public Works.

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