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February 4, 2005
The Decatur Daily (Alabama)
DU considers water sampling for Teflon
By Martin Burkey
DAILY Staff Writer
firstname.lastname@example.org · 340-2441
Decatur Utilities managers are considering whether they need to test their tap water for Teflon-related chemicals after an environmental group Wednesday asked the state to test the water.
After seeing the letter from the Washington-based Environmental Working Group on Wednesday, DU officials are evaluating whether they may need to do their own testing, said Gary Borden, gas, water and waste-water manager for the utility. Four-year-old studies by one Decatur company showed no evidence of the chemicals in tap water, although it found higher amounts in sewage sludge and landfill runoff.
"We are going to talk to ADEM (the Alabama Department of Environmental Management) and some of the customers and start evaluating this process," said Borden. "We're trying to figure out what's involved in testing and who can test. There may be some labs around here. We're exploring the whole situation. After we get a little more knowledge, then we'll plan a course of action."
DU General Manager Kem Carr said the utility tests for all chemicals required by the Environmental Protection Agency and ADEM.
DU's water treatment plant intake on Market Street is upstream of the 3M and Daikin plants that have used or produced the chemicals in the past, he said.
Both the 3M and Daikin America plants on the Tennessee River used or produced Teflon-related chemicals in manufacturing. 3M officials said Wednesday that they stopped using Teflon chemicals in 2004. Daikin continues to use a Teflon chemical in its manufacturing, a company official said.
An ADEM spokesman Wednesday told THE DAILY that ADEM is aware of the health concerns raised about Teflon chemicals and is working with 3M on monitoring. Clint Niemeyer said ADEM currently has no plans for its own testing.
3 different chemicals
A 3M study of several cities in 2001 found concentrations of three different Teflon-related chemicals ranging from less than one to more than 100 parts per billion in treated waste water, waste-water sludge and water in a landfill holding pond. The report noted that the landfill accepted 3M wastewater sludge before 1998 and sent that landfill leachate water to DU's waste-water treatment plant.
However, the studies found either no detectable amounts in Decatur tap water samples and minute traces in surface water samples. The report noted that those samples were taken upstream of the 3M plant.
An independent study sponsored by 3M in 2001 found traces on apples in one Decatur grocery but none on food in that or other stores where testers purchased chicken, hot dogs, fish, beans, bread, milk, and other groceries.
Daikin America Executive Vice President Cliff Adams said the company still uses perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA, in making polymers used in a variety of products.
The company monitors it only within plant boundaries, he said. Most PFOA is destroyed in the manufacturing process. It's still possible that several hundred pounds escapes the plant annually in air and water, he said.
"We've been talking with EPA as well as ADEM, conducting tests on PFOA to determine the risk factors and health factors," Adams said. "Right now, there's a lot of uncertainty and mixed results that have come out of this. "
EPA recently announced it will ask a peer review board to examine scientific studies to date and make recommendations on any future regulatory action. Adams said 3M, DuPont and Daikin have been using the materials for 50 years. Daikin has spent more than $1 million in the past two years, to remove PFOA before it gets into the environment based on the health concerns, Adams said.
Teflon is found in numerous consumer products.