Troubling Findings of Forever Chemicals in Antietam Creek Announced by Upper Potomac Riverkeeper

High Levels of PFAS Detected in Smallmouth Bass and Creek Waters

Washington, D.C. – June 17– Upper Potomac Riverkeeper (UPRK) Brent Walls today announced findings of high levels of PFAS chemicals in fish and water in the Antietam Creek and surrounding region.

Said Walls, “Although banned nearly 15 years ago, the presence of these chemicals, some nearly at the EPA maximum allowed, is very troubling. First, these chemicals are “forever”; in other words, they never break down but accumulate in the human body. Second, the sampling was done in rural or small-town environments where there is no obvious source for them. And third, PFAS pollutants could easily make their way into our food sources through the distribution of biosolids on crop and grazing land.”

Walls also noted that the incredibly high concentrations of the substance in smallmouth bass is particularly concerning because that species of fish is like the “canary in the coal mine,” in that the fish is the first aquatic life to show evidence of pollution. The level of the chemical in the Antietam Creek smallmouth bass plasma, tested in 2018, was at a minimum of 250,000 parts per trillion (PPT) while the EPA guidance for drinking water is 70 ppt. While PFAS levels in blood plasma do not equate directly to safe drinking water limits, these extremely high levels in the bass’ blood indicate that the fish’s edible flesh would likely be unsafe to consume.

Kyla Bennet, Director at New England Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, said “PFAS levels in the fish caught in the Antietam Creek are stunningly high – more than 7,600 times EPA’s Lifetime Health Advisory for just one of the chemicals. Unfortunately, EPA is missing in action on PFAS regulation, and states are scrambling in an effort to fill the void. Maryland officials should identify the source of the creek’s PFAS contamination, and ensure it is not reaching drinking water supplies.”

UPRK’s sampling investigation was supported by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility.

Walls continued, “There is no EPA nor federal plan to address PFAS remediation and thus many states are stepping in. Maryland is working on a plan, but the pace is glacial. We must adopt a scheme regularly to test wastewater so that we can identify sources and create a solution to this nearly unseen and unknown challenge to our long term health.”

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About Potomac Riverkeeper Network

Potomac Riverkeeper Network is a registered 501(c)3 non-profit organization with three regional Waterkeeper branches: Potomac Riverkeeper, Upper Potomac Riverkeeper, and Shenandoah Riverkeeper. Our mission is to protect the public’s