WSAZ Investigates | Flushing out Forever Chemicals in New Haven, W.Va.

In a follow-up investigation, we now know which areas in West Virginia have elevated levels of chemicals linked to serious health issues flowing from the tap.
Published: May. 17, 2023 at 6:58 PM EDT
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NEW HAVEN, W.Va. (WSAZ) - When you fill up a glass of water, you expect it to be clean and safe. However, health experts say PFAS, or forever chemicals, are showing up in water systems across the country and here at home.

These are chemicals used in the industrial, food, and textile industries. They are also an ingredient in some firefighting foams -- as well as food packaging, cleaning products, and various other household items.

WSAZ Investigates | Flushing out Forever Chemicals

In March, the EPA proposed a new rule that if implemented would require water systems to reduce the amount to the lowest level that testing can detect -- because they say the chemicals can be associated with serious health risks, including cancer.

So, how do you know if your water is affected?

West Virginia’s State Health Officer Matthew Christiansen says the Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR) and the Department of Environmental Protection (EPA) have been working on getting those answers for years, and now they have them.

Drinking Water Test Results from the WVDHHR
Drinking Water Test Results from the WVDHHR(WVDHHR)

The final results of testing conducted by the US Geological Survey found 19 water systems across the state had levels above those new proposed EPA standards.

One of those is in New Haven.

WSAZ’s Marlee Pinchok went to speak with the mayor and the water department about the results.

“Before we even knew the results, before we even knew what our numbers were, we were like OK, this is an issue we’re gonna have to work on,” Teresa Gibbs, New Haven Wastewater Operator, said.

“We’re ready to roll. We have everything ready, I mean we’re ready to move,” the New Haven Mayor said.

Not wasting any time at all, the mayor of New Haven says they already have a property cleared out to install a new carbon filtration system. He also says they’ve been in contact with contractors who will be doing the work -- all they need now is the money to do it.

So, Pinchok asked State Health Officer Dr. Matthew Christiansen when the town can expect to see that money roll in.

“I know the state is getting about $19 million in federal funds that can be used several ways including treatment – when can New Haven expect to receive that money, so they can start working to get those chemicals out of the water?” Pinchok asked.

“So, with regards to the funding, we anticipate this will be the first of multiple resources that we can help assist water systems with. Our goal is to get this data and this information out there as quickly as possible. So, we don’t have a dedicated time frame right now for when those federal dollars will flow, but you have my commitment and the commitment of the work group we’ve put together to get that moving as quickly as possible,” Dr. Christiansen said.

While the town waits on federal dollars to flow, Pinchok asked Dr. Christiansen what neighbors in New Haven need to know.

“What can the people of New Haven do now to protect themselves?” Pinchok asked.

“With regards to things individual consumers can do, again I want to emphasize this is a long-term issue. This is not an acute threat to anyone’s individual health and if it were the case, we would be putting out other ‘do not consume’ orders or health advisories on these issues. So, this is a long-term exposure issue that we really need to mitigate over time. If people do have particular concerns they can look to those in-home systems that are rated for PFAS contamination,” Dr. Christiansen said.

The EPA says it expects to finalize the new proposed rules by the end of the year. To read more >>>