City of Dubuque plans to remove presence of PFAS chemicals from water wells

Published: Dec. 15, 2022 at 10:34 PM CST
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DUBUQUE, Iowa (KCRG) - The city of Dubuque recently found what are known as ‘forever chemicals’ in its water supply, but the toxicity level is still below regulatory thresholds of what’s safe to drink.

Earlier this year, the city took part in the Iowa Department of Natural Resources’ PFAS Action Plan. It was a statewide water sampling initiative to determine the presence of manmade chemicals known as per-and poly-fluoroalkyl substances, or “PFAS”.

PFAS are chemicals commonly used in fire-fighting foam are now impacting the drinking water throughout Dubuque.

According to expert, Professor David Cwiertny, they don’t break down over time.

“There’s a good probability that it’s going to be a contaminant that’s going to effect a lot of people because it’s hard to remove once it’s in the environment,” said Prof. Cwiertny.

Several months after the initial test for these chemicals, the City of Dubuque went back in to test their remaining wells.

“They tested similar to the wells 3 and 9 that were tested by the DNR in August. The results were very similar, indicating it’s the shallow alluvial aquifer that they’re pulling out of,” said Dubuque City Water Department Manager, Christopher Lester.

In June, the EPA updated its health advisory levels. Based on that advisory, the levels in Dubuque are too high.

However, an advisory isn’t a regulation, but it could soon be. That’s why the city is taking action now.

“Try to blend water by using our deep wells at maximum capacity and then supplementing with the shallow wells as needed,” said Lester.

The city says it will continue to use water from the shallow wells only as needed to meet the city water demand. In the meantime the city is discussing methods to remove the chemicals from its supply as sufficiently as possible.