The water that Coupeville residents and an untold number of private well owners drink is not safe. Not according to the Toxicological Profile for Perfluoroalkyls (PFAS) chemicals released by the U.S. Department of Health’s Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease and Registry (ATSDR).
Those claiming this water to be safe cite EPA’s health advisory levels of up to 70 parts per trillion for PFOA—one of five PFASs in the water and usually in the greatest amount.
The Navy gives bottled water to families whose water supply has over 70 ppt. Nothing is done for families with lesser amounts.
According to ATSDR, people drinking water with more than seven parts per trillion of PFOA have an “appreciable risk” of adverse health effects. Coupeville’s water contains PFOA up to 38 parts per trillion — more than five times ATSDR’s Minimum Risk Level.
EPA’s health advisory levels have long been criticized for not being protective. A number of states, and now ATSDR, have more protective advisories.
The Trump administration’s attempt to block ATSDR’s report is no less shameful than Navy and Coupeville’s efforts to conceal the extent of the contamination.
The Navy, with Island County Health’s blessing, did not test the community’s water for all of the PFASs known to contaminate the aquifer. It used less sensitive detection limits to analyze the community’s water than those used to analyze its own.
This allowed for some PFASs in the community’s water to go undetected.
Coupeville conducted its own testing but kept the complete results, including the finding of PFHXS and PFHPA, from its customers for almost a year.
The Navy and its apologists have been more concerned with keeping PFASs out of the news than out of our water. Concerns about health effects voiced by citizens were characterized as “fear mongering” by Coupeville Mayor Molly Hughes and “blowing hot air” by Health Board Member Grethe Cammermeyer.
Such attempts to bully citizens into silence have no more place in government than PFASs do in our water.
The Navy and Coupeville still refuse to identify the detection limits for monitoring the town’s water after a PFAS filter is installed, supposedly in 2019 – more than two years after contamination was discovered.
Meanwhile, Coupeville water customers, including schools attended by 2,000 children, will have PFAS-contaminated water exceeding ATSDR’s Minimum Risk Level.
PFASs still leaking from Navy property will continue to threaten more water supplies.