In early February of 2018, Delaware officials announced Blades residents should avoid drinking their water to allow the town time to install a carbon filtration system. The warning was due to per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) detected at levels higher than the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) health advisory limit of 70 parts per trillion (ppt). Blades, which sits near the headwaters of the Nanticoke River, is one of 18 sites in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed where PFAS were discovered at levels of concern. The news of their PFAS contamination in 2018 shocked and inspired people statewide to advocate for the improvement and for new protections of Delaware’s water resources.

Now, it’s time to take action by supporting House Bill 8, The Drinking Water Protection Act. HB 8 is sponsored by Rep. Debra Heffernan and Sen. Dave Sokola and has drawn bipartisan support. It will be heard in the House Natural Resources Committee on March 23 at 1:00 PM. Make your voice heard and contact Natural Resource Committee members today. For a full list of contact information for committee members and suggested talking points, check out our latest Action Alert newsletter (and don’t forget to sign up for them in the future!). https://conta.cc/3lEvxXD

The legislation in its current form would direct the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) and the Division of Public Health (DPH) to set Maximum Contaminant Levels (MCLs) on PFAS, specifically PFOS and PFOA, found in drinking water. By establishing enforceable MCLs, Delaware will be going above and beyond the EPA’s non-enforceable healthy advisory limits and will reinforce that water providers must fix problematic PFAS levels.

Background on PFAS

There are thousands of types of Perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS); two of the most studied are referred to as PFOA and PFOS. The EPA has issued health advisories based on the best available peer-reviewed studies of the effects of PFOA and PFOS on laboratory animals (rats and mice) and were also informed by epidemiological studies of human populations that have been exposed to PFASs. These studies indicate that exposure to PFOA and PFOS over certain levels may result in adverse health effects, including developmental effects to fetuses during pregnancy or to breastfed infants (e.g., low birth weight, accelerated puberty, skeletal variations), cancer (e.g., testicular, kidney), liver effects (e.g., tissue damage), immune effects (e.g., antibody production and immunity), thyroid effects and other effects (e.g., cholesterol change).

PFAS come from a wide variety of sources, and are often associated with manufacturing. In Blades, the source is believed to be from electroplating operations based on other metals that were found in high concentrations in groundwater with the PFAS. EPA Region 3 Site Assessment Manager, Connor O’Loughlin, noted that the EPA has been looking into two electroplating facilities in the area since the mid-1990s, Peninsula Plating and Procino Plating, though the Agency would look at additional sites in their investigation into the contamination.

This is a critical issue facing Delawareans today, and we urge you to contact your state representative to ask that they support passage of HB 8. Make your voice heard and help protect Delaware’s drinking water today.