Federal funding set to help state test drinking water systems for contaminants

$494K will go directly to testing of public water systems
Federal funding set to help state test drinking water systems for contaminants
Published: Jul. 19, 2023 at 10:52 PM AKDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Federal grant money will soon be put to work through a new drinking water monitoring program designed for implementation across Alaska.

The Environmental Protection Agency’s Emergency Contaminants Tribal Drinking Water grant allocates $494,000 to Alaska for the primary goal of getting funding to Alaska Native villages to monitor per- and polyfluoroalkyl substance levels in public water systems.

“We will be determining what the level, if there is any presence of PFAS, if there is a level, what that level is,” said State of Alaska Drinking Water Program Manager Cindy Christian, “so that then we can provide technical and compliance assistance to each one of those communities to treat for that contaminant.”

Christian said the money won’t be allocated to individual communities. Instead, the DEC Drinking Water Program will be paying for the PFAS water sampling in each community with the grant money. The samples will then be shipped and analyzed by a special certified drinking water laboratory.

According to the State of Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, the testing will be for 29 different chemicals that are considered contaminants, so that a baseline of contamination levels in villages across the state can be established. Then, the DEC and EPA are to work together to figure out more precise next steps.

PFAS have largely been associated with the use of aqueous film-forming foams, often used during firefighting and fire training activities and at airports around Alaska. Testing public water systems is meant to be a major step toward combatting contamination, and ensuring that potential PFAS levels aren’t making water sources unsafe for use.

The program is especially important in a place such as Alaska because of consistent sources for releases of PFAS and how that can affect the environment and humans in the area, such as firefighting activities and the high number of airports in the state.

“It depends on the use of the firefighting foams, it depends on the proximity of the airport or where they were used,” Christian explained, “so it’s really hard, and that’s why we want to collect the data, because right now we don’t know, and we won’t know unless we collect the data, so that’s what this whole sampling project is about.”

According to the DEC, the plan is to start testing in August and then get through each of the 193 included communities by the end of 2024. Christian said that another pot of money that is available may be used for testing an additional group of more than 400 Alaska water systems in the future.