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Longmont water sources safe under EPA’s proposed PFAS standards

The city’s drinking water is considered safe under newly proposed standards, but water sources in other Colorado areas have elevated “forever chemical” levels, state data shows.
water dripping from tap stock photo tim graham getty images

Longmont’s water sources would be considered safe under a new federal proposal for PFAS, or “forever chemical” standards, state data shows.

The Environmental Protection Agency proposed the change earlier this month, leaving many regions and cities across the country questioning whether their water is contaminated.

The proposal would limit the chemicals to 4 parts per trillion — the lowest level that tests can detect.

“Current scientific evidence indicates that consuming water containing the PFAS covered in this proposed regulation above certain levels can result in harmful health effects,” the EPA said in a recent prepublication document. “Depending on the individual PFAS, health effects can include negative impacts on fetal growth after exposure during pregnancy, on other aspects of development, reproduction, liver, thyroid, immune function and/or the nervous system; and increased risk of cardiovascular and/or certain types of cancers, and other health impacts.”

The latest state water contamination data, which was released several years ago by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, shows Longmont does not have elevated PFAS levels under the newly proposed standards; however, other Colorado cities — such as Lafayette, Brighton, Thornton, Aurora and Englewood — do show elevated levels.

PFAS have been used since the 1940s in products such as nonstick pans and food packaging. While the chemicals have been phased out in the U.S., they are still permitted in some imported items, according to the Environmental Working Group organization.

Scott Hansen, a representative with the city of Longmont’s Public Works and Natural Resources department, consulted with his team on the latest local PFAS monitoring. 

“What we do know is that the source of the water matters tremendously, and Longmont is fortunate to have source water that comes from fairly protected watersheds such as Rocky Mountain National Park and Indian Peaks Wilderness area, with very few activities that would cause contamination with PFAS chemicals … Longmont also has the Colorado Big Thompson Project (Carter Lake) as one of its source waters,” Hansen said. “However, PFAS compounds are pervasive and have been detected in rainwater even in remote locations such as Antarctica.”

Longmont is among many communities across the country that have begun monitoring their water for PFAS, he said. 

“It will likely require a couple of years of seasonal monitoring to be able to have a full understanding of PFAS occurrence in our watershed and drinking water,” Hansen explained. “Analytical methods continue to become more sensitive as the understanding of PFAS broadens. This may impact our understanding of PFAS occurrence in our watershed.”

The EPA’s new proposal may also take several years to finalize, and water suppliers across the country would then need infrastructure to treat their water, which could come with rate increases, despite federal funding to offset the costs.

Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser filed a lawsuit in 2022 against more than a dozen companies that create firefighting foam that contains PFAS. Thornton filed a similar lawsuit earlier this year.

Amber Fisher

About the Author: Amber Fisher

I'm thrilled to be an assistant editor with the Longmont Leader after spending the past decade reporting for news outlets across North America. When I'm not writing, you can find me snowboarding, reading fiction and running (poorly).
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