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State to start testing wells for ‘forever chemicals’ this summer

DES MOINES — The Iowa Department of Natural Resources plans to test dozens of sites across the state for substances known as “forever chemicals,” which have been linked to an increased risk of cancer and fertility issues. The class of harmful compounds known as PFAS has been widely use in consumer goods for many years.

D-N-R environmental specialist Matt Graesch says they’ll start testing the water at 53 sites in July. “Can we come up with a relatively simple way of figuring out which wells we need to sample first to collect enough data to guide future efforts rather than blanket sampling every well,” Graesch says. “We weren’t sure what we were going to find.”

The department has identified more than 100 wells in the state that are near facilities where PFAS is known or thought to be used. “I drew a half a mile buffer around each of the PFAS locations and ran a query to figure out which of the active, highly susceptible public water supply wells were within a half a mile.”

The chemicals have been used in industrial settings for decades, and in consumer goods from cookware to clothing to carpet. Officials are increasingly detecting contamination in soil and water across the country, raising concerns about long-term exposure.

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