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Published on April 20, 2024
Texas Water Systems Surpass New Federal Safety Limits for "Forever Chemicals" in Major Cities Like Fort Worth and DallasSource: Unsplash/ Prateek Srivastava

Nearly fifty public water systems across Texas are reporting levels of toxic chemicals, famously dubbed "forever chemicals," that exceed new federal safety limits. These substances, formally known as perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), have been detected in the water supply systems of major cities like Fort Worth and Dallas, sparking concerns among health experts and policy makers.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's recent move to establish its first-ever limits on these chemicals has thrown a spotlight on the prevalence of PFAS. Despite being introduced to repel oil and water in everyday items such as nonstick pans and firefighting foam, these compounds don't break down in the environment, earning their moniker for their persistence. According to a data submitted to the EPA, which was obtained by Fox San Antonio, Texas has at least 49 public water utility systems that have reported an exceedance of the newly stipulated limits.

With more than 12,000 types of PFAS identified, the EPA has set limits for only five specific compounds, among them PFOA and PFOS, which now have a limit of 4 parts per trillion. The others, PFHxS, PFNA, and HFPO-DA have a limit of 10 parts per trillion. To put it in perspective, one part per trillion is akin to a single drop of water diluted into 20 Olympic-sized swimming pools. The newly enacted standards aim at reducing exposure to these chemicals, which have been linked to various health conditions like cancer, liver damage, and immune system disruption.

Although all public water systems are required to comply with these new standards within five years, initial actions appear to be varied across the state. "Even though the rule does give us more time to come into compliance, we're not delaying our plans or anything," Mary Gugliuzza, a spokesperson for the Fort Worth Water Department, told Texas Tribune. She detailed how Fort Worth had already started to seek proposals last year for treating the contaminated water after their own testing uncovered three of the five regulated contaminants exceeding limits.

However, this revelation comes with financial worries. Fort Worth is contemplating employing activated carbon to filter out PFAS, a method approved by EPA but described as costly. In the midst of concerns over the price tag for remedying water supplies, environmental advocates call for timely action. "These are very harmful chemicals. It's even more important for [water systems] to address this in the drinking water to minimize the exposure of people in Texas," Maria Doa, a senior director of the Environmental Defense Fund, as reported by Fox San Antonio.