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'Forever chemicals' found in Oklahoma drinking water now required to improve

KJRH-TV Tulsa Channel 2 By: Samson Tamijani You can't see them, but "forever chemicals" have prompted federal environmental leaders to take action on harmful substances that are found in parts of Oklahoma drinking water. Bill Coyle of Wagoner County Rural Water District 5 told 2 News he wants to know how fast and how efficient his water district will be in meeting new standards, knowing that his water's numbers exceed them.

According to EWG, his tap water contains nine contaminants that exceed health guidelines while staying within federal standards.

But Wednesday, the Environmental Protection Agency released what it calls the first-ever national, legally enforceable drinking water standard to protect communities from exposure to harmful polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS. These are known as forever chemicals, used by major industrial manufacturers to produce products since the 1940s.

"Obviously these (numbers) are quite unacceptable according to the new standards," Coyle said.

Sustainability Alliance out of Tulsa warns Oklahomans need to know about the health risks associated with ingesting PFAS.

"A whole range of different types of health impacts including cancer and things like that," Sustainability Alliance founder Corey Williams said. "The environment as a shared resource and impacts everything. And they're not in silos, as we can see here is when it is in the environment, it's also going to impact health when it comes to drinking water."

The EPA said it's setting aside $9 billion for communities like Wagoner County impacted by PFAS. Another $12 billion will go to general drinking water improvements nationwide.

Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality released the following statement:

“DEQ staff have been involved in PFAS-related meetings with other states and our federal partners for some time and have been actively preparing for EPA's new PFAS rule. DEQ staff are reviewing the information released by EPA this morning and working to determine the impact it will have on Oklahoma's drinking water systems."

DEQ Deputy Director Rob Singletary

Coyle said he thankfully already has a double filter installed at his house, but knows many Oklahomans don't have the same luxury. He hopes fixes come soon.

"And I think as a state we should have an action place, a plan in place on the implementation and how to reach adequate water quality related to PFAS."


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