116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
The state’s drinking water tests for toxic, human-made chemicals that persist indefinitely in the environment began this week and will include at least 59 communities in Iowa, according to a list of test sites obtained by Iowa Capital Dispatch.
The Iowa Department of Natural Resources seeks to identify the pervasiveness of perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances — commonly referred to as PFAS or “forever chemicals” — in drinking water supplies across the state.
Concerns about the presence of those chemicals have grown in recent years as manufacturers DuPont and 3M have agreed to pay hundreds of millions of dollars to settle lawsuits for environmental contaminations. On Monday, the Biden administration said it would move with urgency to set enforceable drinking water limits on certain “forever chemicals” that have turned up in communities across the country.
In Iowa, the chemicals have primarily been identified near airports, where they are used to de-ice planes and extinguish fires. The chemicals also appear in widely used products such as non-stick cooking pans and stain-resistant clothes and furniture.
In the Corridor, both Iowa City and Cedar Rapids are on the list of water systems to be tested by the end of this year.
Research has linked the chemicals to cancers, birth defects and other maladies. Most everyone has detectable amounts of the chemicals in their bodies, research has shown.
In a report last year, the Iowa DNR said that “based on sampling data to date, the presence of PFAS in drinking water in the state of Iowa is minimal. While other states have moved ahead with significant regulatory initiatives due to the high levels of known PFAS contamination in those states, the scope of the problem in Iowa appears to be lower at this point. However, in order to address this risk, DNR is moving forward with this action plan as a first step toward developing a comprehensive response plan.”
The bulk of the state tests, expected to be complete by the end of the year, will be conducted at municipal water systems. Cities include:
Amana Colonies, Ames, Burlington, Camanche, Carlisle, Cedar Rapids, Central City, Clarinda, Colfax, Corning, Council Bluffs, Creston, Davenport, Des Moines, Eddyville, Eldora, Fort Madison, Freeport, Graettinger, Greene, Greenfield, Hampton, Harlan, Hawarden, Hiawatha, Ida Grove, Iowa City, Iowa Falls, Kalona, Kammerer, Keokuk, Lamoni, Leon, Lisbon, Manchester, Milford, Missouri Valley, Montezuma, Muscatine, New Hartford, Okoboji, Osceola, Ottumwa, Panora, Prairie City, Rock Valley, Sergeant Bluff, Shenandoah, Sioux City, Sioux Rapids, Spencer, Spirit Lake, St. Ansgar, Tama, Wall Lake, Wapello, Waterloo, West Des Moines and Winterset.
The new round of testing in Iowa began this week for Des Moines Water Works, which supplies water to about a half million people. The state department planned to sample intake water at the Des Moines and Raccoon Rivers, along with Maffitt Reservoir and Crystal Lake. Tests of Water Works wells in the area are set for next month.
The department also will be sampling finished water that is ready for distribution to residents, said Roger Bruner, the supervisor of the department’s water quality program.
Sampling is planned at two businesses — Big River United Energy in Dyersville and HWH Corp. in Moscow — and at three rural water systems: Rathbun Regional Water Association, based in Centerville; Mahaska Rural Water System, based in Oskaloosa; and Rural Water System #1, based in Hospers.
A handful of mobile home parks and other residential areas complete the list.
The Iowa DNR plans to publish the results early next year with an interactive map.
This article first appeared in the Iowa Capital Dispatch.