Local utilities to test for ‘forever chemicals’

BRISTOL, Tenn. (WJHL)—Two local utilities say they aren’t worried about a new federal regulation that could require water systems to overhaul their treatment processes.

Earlier this month, the Biden administration announced the first-ever regulations on PFAS, or so-called “forever chemicals,” in drinking water. The chemicals, used in many commercial products for their heat and water-resistant properties, have been linked to increased risk of some cancers and other negative health effects.

Bristol’s water system is a few months away from its first round of testing for the chemicals, but Utilities Manager Mark Quickel said he’s not worried about the results.

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“We believe our water is pretty clean, pristine as far as surface waters go in the U.S.,” Quikel told News Channel 11. “There’s really not a whole lot of industrial input on our headwaters. “

Kingsport Utilities has participated in an initial, Environmental Protection Agency-mandated round for one year. So far, the agency has not found forever chemical levels above the new federal guideline of 4 parts per trillion.

“At this time, we don’t anticipate any additional treatment (will be) required; however, we will be monitoring over the next three years to get a better understanding of the levels in our water,” Utility Manager Niki Ensor said.

Ensor said though the EPA has identified risks to PFAS exposure, it’s probably not something to worry about in the short term.

“It’s a matter of how much water I drink or what my exposure is over a period of time,” Ensor told News Channel 11.

As utilities in our region see results, customer costs could go up, but it’s too soon to know for sure.

“Depending on what our sample shows, if we have to add additional processes, that is certainly going to add cost,” Bristol’s Quickel said. “We’ll just have to adapt and make the changes to our treatment as we see.”

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