Study shows high levels of chemicals in Charleston’s drinking water; officials disagree

A new study ranked Charleston’s drinking water in the top ten for so-called “forever chemicals” known as PFA’s. (WCIV)

By Brodie Hart

PFA’s are man-made chemicals found in stain-resistant and oil-resistant materials like Teflon, but can also be found in clothing and carpets.

“Since the beginning of our testing, we have found nothing but safe levels of the PFA’S family of compounds,” said Mike Saia with Charleston Water Keeper. The study was performed by a nonprofit called Environmental Working Group.

Saia said it incorrectly combines chemicals together it shouldn’t, resulting in higher chemical counts.

“We have never detected any PFAS amounts above the EPA’s 70 parts per trillion. We hover in the 11-12 range so we feel very confident that our water is 100 percent safe,” Saia said.

The study showed Charleston’s drinking water contained PFA’s at 33 parts per trillion. The EPA safe-level is less than 70 parts per trillion. Saia maintains that Charleston Water System’s independent testing showed PFA’s at 11 parts per trillion.

“Nobody should have to drink this stuff,” said Andrew Wunderly. He works with Charleston Water Keeper, a group that works to keep Charleston’s waterways clean. He says PFA’s never break down in the body and any amount greater than zero is too high.

“It doesn’t matter how you dice up the numbers or how you look at the numbers, all that matters is that they’re there and they shouldn’t be there and we need to do everything we can to make sure they’re not there,” Wunderly said.

Saia says it’s not possible for treatment centers to remove all PFA’s from drinking water, but that the water is still safe.

“We rely on the EPA and DHEC to give us levels and numbers that we can aspire to keep our water below,” he said. “And we certainly have done that throughout the history of all our test results. Just through our normal water treatment process that we use all day every day.”

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