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PFAS chemical water contamination, how Tucson drinking water is safe

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Posted at 8:18 PM, May 09, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-09 23:18:22-04

TUCSON, Ariz. — Tucson's drinking water is not at risk, according to Tucson Water, but a new report shows drinking water in nearly every state is contaminated with PFAS chemicals. This was released by the Environmental Working Group and Northeastern University.

Tucson is included as a contamination location in this report's map, but Tucsonans have nothing to worry about.

PFAS chemicals, if regularly consumed, are linked to several severe health issues. But Tucson Water said although the report is correct in saying we do have PFAS chemicals in our water, its not in the water we drink.

"Tucsonans should not be concerned about the quality of their drinking water. We do have PFAS or Proflourinated compounds in parts of our ground water here in Tucson. But that does not mean that they're in the drinking water and it does not mean that their drinking water is contaminated," said Tim Thomure, Tucson Water's director.

A few months ago, Tucson Water detected PFAS chemicals in the wells close to Davis-Monthan Air Base. The agency says it immediately shut the wells off. But aside from Davis-Monthan, the chemicals are also found in ground water wells on the northwest side near Marana and at the airport's remediation project treatment facility.

"The health advisory is 70 parts per trillion or less. But in Tucson, we set an internal standard that we target an 18 parts per trillion or less. From a practical standpoint we deliver zero. So Tucsonans should feel very secure about the levels of protection that are there for them and that are not being exposed to these chemicals," said Thomure.

The city's ground water wells are not used often, since most of our water comes from the Colorado River, which Thomure said, does not contain PFAS.

But what's interesting about the study's interactive map is that it labels Tucson's drinking water as contaminated, something Tucson water said is an error in semantics.

"In their case, a well is a well. There's a disconnect between the accuracy of the original data that says, 'Yes, here's a well and yes there's compounds in that well.' Between that and whether or not that is actually what is in the drinking water system. And that's our job to know where the compounds are and either not use those wells or provide the treatment necessary," said Thomure.