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‘A historic day’: EPA sets first ever legally enforceable limit on toxic PFAS levels

By Mike Tony, Charleston Gazette-Mail

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Federal regulators took historic action Wednesday targeting toxic chemicals that have for generations increased cancer risks and other health liabilities in West Virginia.

The Environmental Protection Agency released the first ever national, legally enforceable drinking water standard for harmful per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances, known as PFAS. They are industrial chemicals that build up in the bloodstream and have been linked to increased cancer risk, altered metabolism and reduced immune system vulnerability to infections.

And they’ve been especially prevalent pollutants in the Ohio River Valley for generations, with the Washington Works chemical facility near Parkersburg having been a national hot spot for PFAS pollution through groundwater and air since PFAS use began there under DuPont control in 1951.

“This is really a historic day,” environmental attorney Rob Bilott said during a webinar hosted by the environmental health advocacy nonprofit Environmental Working Group on Wednesday, over two decades after his work that drew attention to PFAS exposure linked to elevated concentrations of cancers and other diseases in the Parkersburg area.

U.S. Geological Survey testing results released by West Virginia officials last year showed 27 out of 37 public water systems sampled in the state showed detectable levels of select PFAS.

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