‘Forever chemicals’ from Mississippi River found in Iowa drinking water

Via Flickr.

Eleanor Hildebrandt | March 2, 2022

Three Iowa cities that draw drinking water from the Mississippi River were found to have toxic chemical in the water.

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources found trace amounts of perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, also known as PFAS, in water that reaches 183,000 residents in Burlington, Davenport, and Keokuk. Previous test have shown the chemicals are also present in Ames, Sioux City, Rock Valley, and West Des Moines drinking water.

While the trace amounts are well below current federal safety standards, Iowa Capital Dispatch reported it is the first time the DNR tests found notable concentrations of the forever chemicals in a major river that serves as many states’ source of drinking water. Usually, the vastness of major rivers hide contaminations. The precise sources of contamination in the Mississippi River is unclear. The river has too large of an upstream area before reaching Iowa to pinpoint if the contamination is coming from Illinois, Minnesota, and Wisconsin.

Director of the Center for Health Effects of Environmental Contamination at the University of Iowa David Cwiertny said he was troubled by the results and the consistency of the contamination of a large river, especially since the three cities are so far apart.

““This suggests that the Mississippi River, at least along the 100-mile plus stretch between Davenport down to Keokuk, contains a mixture of PFAS chemicals, and any other community in that area using the Mississippi as a water supply could be vulnerable to PFAS exposure,” he said.

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