Six months after detecting elevated levels of harmful “forever chemicals” in one of its drinking water wells, the city of Camas is bringing that impacted well back online.
“The City is reactivating the water source known as Well 13 the week of May 29,” the City recently announced on its website.
The City said testing of the well on May 17 did not detect any chemicals known as PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) in Well 13, located south of East First Avenue near Louis Bloch Park in downtown Camas.
“Since the level of PFAS is lower than the (state’s action levels), the City is not required to send out a public notification,” the City stated on its website announcement. “However, this notice is being distributed to keep our customers informed of the City’s actions.”
The City said it will continue to test Well 13 “multiple times per month over the next quarter” to ensure that the PFAS levels remain under the state’s action level of 15 parts per trillion (PPT).
“This testing is above any Washington State Department of Health requirements, but (is) crucial information for both the City and its citizens,” the City stated.
The city of Camas detected levels of harmful “forever chemicals” in Well 13 in April 2022 and again in December 2022, with readings of 25 parts per trillion (PPT) in April and 17 PPT in December for perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS), a colorless chemical once used to make products resistant to stains, grease, soil and water and one of five PFAS the state is monitoring.
PFOS has not been manufactured in the U.S. since the early 2000s, but may still be used on products imported from other countries.
Known as “forever chemicals” because they do not break down naturally and can build up in the bodies of humans and animals, including many freshwater fish found in lakes and rivers, PFAS have been linked to liver and kidney disease, a decreased vaccine response in children, fetal complications, an increased risk of high blood pressure and pre-eclampsia in pregnant people, high cholesterol and an increased risk of kidney and testicular cancer, according to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.
“Exposure to PFOS in the United States remains possible due to its legacy uses, existing and legacy uses on imported goods, degradation of precursors, and extremely high persistence in the environment and the human body,” the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency stated in 2016, adding that “PFOS was detected in blood serum in up to 99% of the U.S. general population between 1999 and 2012; however, the levels of PFOS in blood have been decreasing since U.S. companies began to phase out production.”
The EPA noted that water contamination by PFOS is usually connected to releases from “manufacturing sites, industrial sites, fire/crash training areas, and industrial or municipal waste sites where products are disposed of or applied.”
The city of Camas’ communications director, Bryan Rachel, told The Post-Record in January that determining the exact source of the PFOS in Well 13 would be “extremely hard to do” and noted that, although some jurisdictions have found elevated PFAS levels in water sources near military bases or certain manufacturing sites, there is no obvious contamination source near Well 13.
“We don’t know why that well was testing higher,” Rachel said in January.
Despite the elevated PFAS levels, the city was not actually required to shut down the impacted well.
“The Department of Health is not telling (us), ‘You either have to treat it or shut it down,” the city’s public works director, Steve Wall, told The Post-Record in January. “It’s very much a testing and research phase.”
Rachel said in January that the city was doing everything it could to solve the issue, and wanted to be as transparent as possible with water customers.
“From the city’s standpoint, we’re on top of it, and we’re looking at ways we can solve this thing,” Rachel said then. “We understand the concern, and if we need to turn the well back on, we want to be as transparent as possible.”
The City posted an updated statement concerning the PFAS and Well 13 to its website on May 22, and said the City has increased its PFAS testing in all of Camas’ drinking water wells.
“In addition, the (Washington Department of Health) has launched a new PFAS in Drinking Water Data dashboard,” the City stated. “The dashboard provides public access to data collected by public water systems under a state board of health rule adopted in 2021. The rule requires more than 2,400 water systems test for PFAS before December 2025. About one-quarter of the required testing has been completed so far.”
To see results from the DOH testing, visit doh.wa.gov/data-and-statistical-reports/washington-tracking-network-wtn/pfas/dashboard