I-Team: Water quality testing finds high levels of ‘forever chemicals’ in Gadsden
By Cynthia Gould
GADSDEN, AL (WBMA) – Concerned about what’s in your water? Following some alarming test results from the Gadsden water system, ABC3340 conducted its own independent testing.
We were looking for PFAS, a group of contaminants known as ‘forever chemicals’ because they take decades to break down. Those chemicals are used in things like flame-resistant clothing and non-stick cooking pans.
The EPA now dramatically lowering what it calls safe levels of PFAS.
The Gambing say they’ve always worried about their water quality. “I have huge concerns. All my children live in the city of Gadsden,” says Elsie Gamblin. Her family only drinks bottled water.
Brenetta Watkins feels the same way. “They need to get some kind of filtering system to get this fixed,” remarked Watkins.
Gamblin says sometimes the water smells like moldy dirt. But it’s what they can’t see or taste that’s even more concerning. Forever chemicals can lead to serious health issues like cancer and fertility issues.
“It’s everywhere and it’s definitely a health care crisis. It’s in our air, in drinking water, in some of our food,” explains Dr. Rasmi Joglekar, a scientist with Earth Justice.
In July the public was notified of test results for PFAS by Gadsden Water. The numbers were well above new EPA guidelines.
ABC3340 News set out to do independent tests across the city. We took samples from four homes, a local McDonalds, a downtown business and the Coosa River.
“I’m nervous about it, to be honest. I don’t want to be in a Flint, Michigan situation,” remarked Gamblin
Auburn University’s School of Fisheries, Aquaculture, and Aquatic Sciences tested the samples. Lab technicians showed us the extensive process.
Auburn’s Dr. Kevin Wang and Dr. Joglekar called the findings concerning especially in light of the new advisories.
Dr. Joglekar reports the levels in our independent testing for certain PFAS are up to two to three times higher than those reported by the water company.
Across the samples – PFOA levels are on average are 6800 times higher than the new EPA advisory level. And the PFOS levels are on average 2700 times higher.
A spokesperson for McDonald’s says “any water used in food preparation goes through an extensive filtering system.” The sample tested was taken from a bathroom faucet which the representative says is not the water used when serving the public their food or drinks.
For homeowners Dr. Joglekar recommends water customers also add their own filters.
“Relying on a reverse osmosis filter is the best method for residents. They are a little pricey, but it removes almost 100 percent PFAS from the drinking water, ” advises Dr. Joglekar.
Refrigerator and tap filters can remove about 50 percent of the contaminants according to experts.
“It’s scary with as much technology as we have, why is there not enough technology to take care of these contaminants,” questions Gamblin.
Gadsden Water and Sewer Board General Manager Chad Hare said he could not comment on our test results due to an ongoing lawsuit. The civil trial against 3M and other manufacturers alleged to have dumped toxic chemicals in waterways, is set for