Illinois Water Alert: From Elgin to Kankakee ‘Forever Chemicals’ Contaminate Tap Supplies

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KANKAKEE, IL – A recent study has unveiled concerning findings regarding the presence of per- and polyfluorinated substances (PFAS), commonly referred to as “forever chemicals,” in drinking water systems across the United States. 

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) has revealed that these synthetic compounds have infiltrated tap water in 45% of the nation’s households, raising significant health concerns.

PFAS are a class of non-stick, waterproof, stain-resistant compounds found in everyday consumer products and industrial processes. Among the most well-known are perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS), used respectively in DuPont’s Teflon and 3M’s Scotchgard.

Exposure to PFAS has been linked to a slew of health issues, including cancer, thyroid disease, weakened childhood immunity, and other serious medical conditions. Worryingly, tests conducted on tap water, military bases, and industrial sites have identified PFAS contamination in over 2,854 locations across all 50 states. This indicates that drinking water consumed by up to 200 million Americans could potentially be tainted with these harmful chemicals.

Aqua Illinois, serving a population of 80,275 in Kankakee, Illinois, is among the affected systems. Recent testing detected PFAS compounds, including PFHXA, at levels as high as 2.4 parts per trillion (ppt), while remaining below proposed EPA regulatory limit for PFAS.

The results revealed a total of 28 contaminates in the local water supply, exceeding EWG Health Guidelines by 14, raising alarms among local residents, prompting concerns about the long-term impact on public health.

Other local Illinois communities with similar results under the survey include Elgin (Exceeds Guidelines by 14 Contaminates), Aurora (13),Wilmington (12), Lockport (11), 

To help individuals assess the safety of their tap water, the EWG has developed an interactive map showcasing regions where PFAS concentrations exceed the recommended maximum level of 4 ppt. While the data offers valuable insights, experts emphasize the need for ongoing monitoring and treatment efforts, as contamination levels can vary over time.

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) highlighted the widespread contamination of PFAS, affecting urban areas, small towns, private wells, and public systems alike. Sample sites with elevated PFAS concentrations were identified across the country, from Ocala, Florida, to Galena, Alaska. These chemicals are pervasive due to their use in countless products, including nonstick pans, food packaging, fire-fighting foams, furniture, and clothing.

Labelled as “forever chemicals” due to their resistance to natural degradation, PFAS have been linked to liver and immune-system damage, certain cancers, high blood pressure, and low birth weight. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed drinking water limits on six forms of PFAS, acknowledging their lasting impact on human health and the environment.

It’s been nearly two decades since legal limits for contaminations in tap water was last updated. 

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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