Researchers from Indiana University and a nonprofit research institute will soon test private wells in Monroe County and three out-of-state counties for PFAS chemicals.
The team of researchers from IU’s School of Public Health-Bloomington and O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs and RTI International will use a $1.5 million U.S. Environmental Protection Agency grant to send free testing kits to residents of those four counties.
PFAS chemicals have been linked to a series of adverse health conditions like increased risk of kidney and testicular cancer, increased cholesterol levels, increased risk of high blood pressure or preeclampsia in pregnant women, decreased birth weight and decreased vaccine response in children.
The kits will allow owners of private wells in those counties to collect samples and send them to RTI for analysis.
“PFAS contaminants last a long time in the environment and have been found as far away as the North Pole, but we know very little about where and how often they occur in private well water,” said principal investigator Jacqueline MacDonald Gibson, chair of the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health at IU’s School of Public Health-Bloomington. “With 13% of the U.S. population getting their drinking water from private wells, filling this information gap is very important to making sure everyone has access to safe drinking water.”
The researchers said residents would soon receive postcards inviting them to be a part of the study.
Private well water is unregulated by the EPA and the Indiana Department of Environmental Management. IDEM said well owners are responsible for their own safety when drinking from a private water source.
Federal agencies have tested private wells for PFAS when chemical discharges may have occurred near the wells.
In 2019, the U.S. Navy found that 18 private wells were at risk for PFAS contamination from firefighting foam discharges at neighboring Naval Support Activity Crane. None of seven samples collected by Navy contractors tested above the EPA’s lifetime health advisory for PFOS or PFOA, two of thousands of chemicals that belong to the PFAS family.