Anchorage group releases findings on water contamination in Anchorage

Groups calls for legislators to take action on preventing the spread of PFAS contamination in bodies of water in Alaska
Alaska Community Action on Toxics releases findings on water contamination in Anchorage
Published: May. 9, 2022 at 9:45 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The group Alaska Community Action on Toxics is concerned about the presence and level of water contamination in bodies of water around Alaska, specifically perfluorinated and polyfluorinated substances, or PFAS.

The group is now calling for state officials to held accountable. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, PFAS are a group of chemicals used to make fluoropolymer coatings and products that resist heat, oil, stains, grease, and water.

The chemicals can be in a variety of products such as clothing, furniture, adhesives, food packaging, heat-resistant or non-stick cooking surfaces, and the insulation of electrical wire. They are concerning those who monitor their presence in bodies of water because they do not break down in the environment. The chemicals can move through soils and contaminate drinking water sources, and build up in fish and wildlife.

If ingested, PFAS can cause adverse health outcomes, and unfortunately, Alaska Community Action on Toxics said PFAS has been found in alarming levels here in Anchorage

On Monday afternoon on the beach of Spenard Lake, Alaska Community Action on Toxics released the results of an independent water quality study showing PFAS contamination in popular bodies of water around Anchorage. Executive Director Pamela Miller of Alaska Community Action on Toxics said that PFAS are used in consumer products and industrial applications. Examples are non-stick cookware, stain and water repellents, pizza boxes and take-out containers, and fire retardants.

Starting in October 2021, the group and citizen volunteers collected samples of water from 12 lakes around Anchorage and the Fairbanks North Star Borough. Miller said that the lakes are in areas associated with known or suspected PFAS contamination from firefighting foams. Lake Spenard and Lake Hood near Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport were among the water bodies that had the highest levels.

”The water sample taken right here at Spenard Lake and Lake Hood had the highest level of PFAS of 674.7 parts per trillion. Nearly 10 times higher than the EPA health guidance level of 70 parts per trillion,” Miller said.

Miller added that she and others are concerned because PFAS have been linked to adverse outcomes such as liver and kidney damage, reproductive and developmental harm, immune system impairment, and certain cancers.

”This is a concern because people catch and eat fish from these local lakes,” Miller said. “These chemicals are also highly toxic to aquatic life.”

Additionally, Miller said that PFAS have been found in groundwater and public drinking water in communities throughout Alaska. Sand Lake resident Linda Swiss, who attended the event and helped raise awareness about PFAS in Sand Lake, said she is concerned about her drinking water due to development around her neighborhood.

”Our well was tested last Summer, there was no PFAS in my well. My understanding is, nearby wells was there was very small levels of PFAS found recently,” said Swiss. “Where that PFAS is coming from, we are not really sure.”

Midtown resident Ptery Lieght, who also attended the event, said he has similar concerns.

”It’s in the water and it’s going to cause a lot of health (concerns) to people who have wells out here, a lot of animals that play out here and the kids that play out here,” Lieght said.

The group is now calling on legislators to take action on Senate Bill 121 and House Bill 171. The two pieces of legislation are companion bills that would protect communities from PFAS contamination.

“This is the right thing to do and the time to do it is now,” Miller said. “The longer Alaska waits to take action the more that people will be harmed and the more expensive it will be.”

Neither SB 121 or HB 171 have made it out of committees to be heard on the Senate and House floors. There are only nine days left in this legislative session.

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