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ND expert welcomes new PFAS drinking water standard

Jeff Parrott/WVPE

The Biden Administration on Wednesday finalized the EPA’s first-ever drinking water standard for PFAS, the toxic so-called forever chemicals.

A leading expert on the topic at the University of Notre Dame says the rule will save lives.

The new standard requires water utilities to remove any measurable amounts of PFAS, or perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, within five years. DuPont and 3M started making them in the 1940s to repel water, grease and heat in a wide variety of consumer products.

PFAS cause cancer and other illnesses, they accumulate in the body over time, and they’re found in the bodies of 97% of Americans, according to the CDC. The administration says the standard will reduce exposure for 100 million people.

Graham Peaslee, a Notre Dame physics professor, is a leading expert in the study of PFAS. This year he testified against an Indiana House bill that would have weakened protections, and the bill died in the Senate.

Peaslee said he’s equally happy about the EPA standard.

"It's a tremendous win for public health," Peaslee said. "I'm very impressed that they've managed to do that. I thought they were going to... they proposed it a year ago and it was a lot of backlash about, oh it's too restrictive, we can't possibly meet that, and so I feared that they were going to back off.

"In actuality they've tweaked it a little bit and they've made it just as harsh."

Peaslee says South Bend’s water supply, like most in Indiana, have safe levels for now. He said that’s not true in some other places, like Cape Fear, North Carolina. A DuPont plant there has polluted a watershed that serves 300,000 people with drinking water.

"All of the water there is contaminated well above these levels and so people are going to get sick from that, and they're going to have much more incidences of cancer and thyroid disease and immune-compromised systems. It takes a real toll on people."

Parrott, a longtime public radio fan, comes to WVPE with about 25 years of journalism experience at newspapers in Indiana and Michigan, including 13 years at The South Bend Tribune. He and Kristi live in Granger and have two children currently attending Indiana University in Bloomington. In his free time he enjoys fixing up their home, following his favorite college and professional sports teams, and watching TV (yes that's an acceptable hobby).