116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
The state’s next phase of testing drinking water for “forever chemicals” will include more than 30 cities — including Cedar Rapids, Marion, Hiawatha and Iowa City — and more than a dozen large businesses that have their own wells, according to a list obtained by Iowa Capital Dispatch.
The Iowa Department of Natural Resources plans to sample the water supplies from June to September, said Corey McCoid, supervisor of the DNR’s Water Supply Operations.
The new round of sampling follows the DNR’s recent tests of about 70 community water supplies for perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances — commonly referred to as PFAS, or “forever chemicals” — that have been used to make non-stick and stain-resistant materials and firefighting foams.
Cedar Rapids officials reported in March that DNR testing in February found a “very low” level of perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS) in one Cedar Rapids well, at 4.7 parts per trillion, far below the advisory level set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. No perfluorooctanioic acid (PFOA) was detected in the water supply, they said.
The DNR found the drinking water in a dozen Iowa cities had detectable amounts of the two most-prominent PFAS. At least three cities have stopped using contaminated wells as a result of the testing.
Researchers have been unable to calculate how long it takes for the chemicals to break down in the environment. They tend to accumulate in people’s bodies and have been linked to cancers and other ailments.
Cities to be tested
The Eastern Iowa cities that will be sampled this summer include Burlington, Cedar Rapids, Cedar Falls, Central City, Decorah, Dubuque, Hiawatha, Iowa City, Lansing, Marengo, Marion, McGregor, Monticello, Muscatine and Tama.
Other cities include Albert City, Allison, Alta, Britt, Buffalo, Kanawha, Lake City, Marshalltown, Nashua, Perry, Princeton, Ralston, Sac City, Shell Rock, Sloan and Tripoli.
Some of those cities were included in previous testing, such as Cedar Rapids, Burlington, Iowa City and Muscatine. The new tests in those cities will examine previously unsampled wells.
Larger cities often have numerous water sources. Burlington, for instance, draws water from the Mississippi River and from wells, according to DNR data. The first DNR tests found detectable amounts of PFAS in the city’s treated drinking water and in the raw water taken from the Mississippi. This summer’s sampling will target the city’s wells.
The DNR also plans to recheck Central City’s two wells, one of which contained PFAS in concentrations that approached a federal safety threshold. The city shut off the contaminated well and plans to uses it only for emergencies. The DNR is investigating the source of the contamination.
The summer sampling also will include:
— Two regional water systems: A portion of Cherokee County Rural Water and the Poweshiek Water Association. The Poweshiek utility supplies more than two dozen small communities in Eastern Iowa.
— Several mobile home parks, including the Modern Manor and Sunrise Village mobile home parks in Iowa City, Montiview Mobile Home Park in Monticello, Mount Joy Mobile Home Park in Davenport, and Woodland Wapello Mobile Home Park in Wapello.
— Residential areas such as the Meadow Knolls Addition of Marion and the Hilltop Road Association of Muscatine.
— More than a dozen large businesses, including two Poet ethanol plants in Coon Rapids and Shell Rock, two MidAmerican Energy coal-fired power plants near Sioux City, and a Bayer Crop Science site near Muscatine, which has previously been contaminated by other chemicals, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
The DNR’s sampling and publication of results are expected to conclude near the end of this year, McCoid said.
The state might do further testing but will wait for the EPA to start its testing for unregulated contaminants, including PFAS, in Iowa next year.
The federal testing is anticipated for all communities with a population of at least 3,300, McCoid said. That’s why the DNR’s summer testing will include a broader mix of water supplies.
“We wanted to focus on some of those smaller facilities that might not be part of” the EPA tests, McCoid said.
This article first appeared in the Iowa Capital Dispatch.