Washougal finds toxic ‘forever chemicals’ in water

City found ‘slightly elevated’ PFAS levels in all 6 wells

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Kelly Moyer/Post-Record files (Kelly Moyer/Post-Record files)

The city of Washougal has detected trace amounts of harmful “forever chemicals” in the City’s drinking water system.

City employees identified slightly elevated per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) levels at each of the City’s six wellheads during routine testing between February and May 2024, according to a news release by the City.

The levels prompted public notification “despite being below the State Action Level set by the Washington State Department of Health,” the City stated in the news release.

PFAS, a group of synthetic, manufactured chemicals widely used in common household items such as nonstick cookware, glass and surface cleaners, fabrics, floor polishes, paints, carpeting and water-resistant clothing, break down very slowly in the environment, leading to their nickname, “forever chemicals.”

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), PFAS are linked to a host of health risks, including increased cholesterol and obesity rates, hormone disruption, reduced vaccine response, decreased fertility, increased blood pressure during pregnancy, developmental delays in children and an increased risk of prostate, kidney and testicular cancers.

The chemicals are widespread, with at least one report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showing PFAS are likely in the bloodstreams of at least 97% of Americans.

Washougal Public Works Director Trevor Evers did not respond to The Post-Record’s multiple requests for comment, but stated in the City’s news release that “the health and safety of our residents are our top priorities.”

“Upon detecting these low levels of PFAS, we have taken immediate steps to ensure our drinking water remains safe and compliant with regulatory standard,” Evers stated, adding that the City is “investigating interim measures,” such as testing and monitoring water quality, evaluating treatment technologies to remove PFAS from the water supply, and investigating potential sources of PFAs and the extent of PFAS in the local groundwater supply, to “safeguard the community’s water supply,” according to the news release.

“We are committed to transparency and proactive communication with our residents,” City Manager David Scott stated in the news release. “Regular updates on PFAS testing results and our ongoing efforts to address this issue will be readily available to ensure our community remains informed.”

In April 2024, the EPA set enforceable maximum contaminant levels for perfluorooctanoic acid and perfluorooctane sulfonate, two prominent PFAS, in drinking water at 4 parts per trillion.

The recommended limits “are based on long-term exposure to PFAS throughout a person’s life and represent a conservative level at which no adverse impacts are expected over a lifetime of drinking the water, even in health-sensitive populations,” according to the news release.

“PFAS can accumulate in the environment and persist for extended periods,” the news release stated. “The new EPA regulations underscore the urgency of monitoring and managing these contaminants, with public water systems required to conduct initial monitoring by 2027 and implement corrective actions, if necessary, by 2029.”

Washougal is not alone in its discovery of PFAS in its municipal water system.

Since 2022, the city of Camas, one of the first Washington state communities to test its drinking water system for PFAS, has found levels of the toxic “forever chemicals” that exceeded the state’s 15 parts per trillion limit in at least one of its wells. Camas has turned off Well 13, located near Louis Bloch Park in downtown Camas, during non-summer months, when water is not in high demand, and notifies the public when the well is back on.

“They are extremely persistent in the environment,” Camas Public Works Director Steve Wall told city officials in January 2024, referring to PFAS. “And they’re not easy to get rid of. They don’t degrade … so we’re trying to catch up with something that has been in (our environment) for 70 to 80 years.”

Camas officials approved a $1.61 million contract with an environmental engineering firm in April 2024, to help address PFAS found in the drinking water supply.

Camas-Washougal residents interested in finding out more about PFAS and how local, state and federal jurisdictions are trying to find and treat these “forever chemicals” are invited to attend an open house July 9, in Camas. The city of Camas, in conjunction with the Washington State Department of Ecology, Clark County Public Health and the Washington State Department of Health, will hold the open house from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Tuesday, July 9, at Lacamas Lake Lodge, located at 227 N.E. Lake Road, Camas.

For more information about PFAS testing and mitigation efforts, visit

Statewide PFAS testing results can be accessed through the Washington State Department of Health’s PFAS Dashboard at ngton-tracking-network-wtn/pfas/dashboard.