Local leaders urge Congress to reclassify PFAS


Via Flickr.

Eleanor Hildebrandt | June 10, 2021

Local and community leaders are asking Congress to designate per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, as hazardous materials this legislative session. This classification would trigger federal cleanup standards when the chemical is in drinking water.

PFAS can be found all over the United States in drinking water, soil, and air because they are commonly used in nonstick cookware and waterproof clothing. These chemicals are part of a family of persistent synthetic chemicals that can cause adverse health issues. Exposure to PFAS can lead to liver damage, obesity, high cholesterol, and cancer.

The two most well studied PFAs are perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA, and perfluorooctane sulfonate, or PFOS. Des Moines, Davenport, and Bettendorf all have high levels of these two chemicals.

The Environmental Protection Agency has taken steps since February to act on PFAS by creating a council on the “forever chemical”. PFAS are also found in the Department of Defense’s firefighting foam that is used at many airports.

Senators Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters introduced legislation that would hold the Pentagon accountable for its use of the chemicals and oblige it to initiate clean up programs on military bases. New Mexico is currently suing the Department of Defense after PFAS spread to several farms in the state.

Congressional leaders are advocating for specific deadlines to ensure the legislation is effective and the Department of Defense follows through with the clean-up.

No environmental damage caused by northwest Iowa train derailment


Via Flickr.

Eleanor Hildebrandt | May 21, 2021

Following a freight train derailment in Sibley, Iowa on Sunday afternoon, the Environmental Protection Agency said there was no environmental harm caused by the chemicals that were being transported by the train.

More than 40 train cars were derailed, including some carrying hazardous chemicals. The railroad, Union Pacific, confirmed the train was carrying hydrochloric acid, asphalt, potassium hydroxide, and highly explosive ammonium nitrate. EPA officials said the chemicals were captured on site and secured. The reason for the derailment is still under investigation.

The derailed train caught fire on Sunday, causing an evacuation order for the northwest Iowa town until Monday night. The fire was contained by local firefighters and burned itself out by Tuesday afternoon.

Some acid was spilled at the derailment site, but the EPA said the land impacted by the acid will be sampled and cleaned up in remediation efforts, according to Radio Iowa. Some land was also burned by the fire and no injuries were reported in connection to the derailment.

Osceola County Emergency Management Director Dan Bechler told KIWA Radio he was initially concerned about the derailment’s proximity to Otter Creek. The EPA and the Department of Natural Resources verified that the creek was clean, and no hazardous chemicals reached the water. Bechler said none of the spilled chemicals pose a threat to the public.

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources is now focusing on overseeing the clean-up process to remove the train cars safely.