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A new study shows health disparities cost Texas billions of dollars; Senate rejects impeachment articles against Mayorkas, ending trial against Cabinet secretary; Iowa cuts historical rural school groups.

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The Senate dismisses the Mayorkas impeachment. Maryland Lawmakers fail to increase voting access. Texas Democrats call for better Black maternal health. And polling confirms strong support for access to reproductive care, including abortion.

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Rural Wyoming needs more vocational teachers to sustain its workforce pipeline, Ohio environmental advocates fear harm from a proposal to open 40-thousand forest acres to fracking and rural communities build bike trail systems to promote nature, boost the economy.

Report: PFAS chemicals contaminate TN rivers, lakes

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Wednesday, January 17, 2024   

The latest research reveals alarming levels of contamination in northeastern Tennessee waterways, by the chemicals known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances or PFAS.

Many communities and ecosystems are exposed to PFAS in soil, surface water, groundwater and air.

Dan Firth, chair of the solid waste and mining committee for the Tennessee chapter of the Sierra Club, said they collected 20 water samples from lakes and rivers around Kingsport and Johnson City, and about 60% tested positive for the substances, often known as "forever chemicals" because they do not degrade over time.

"We sampled the water system down below Boone Lake, all the way to just below the Holston Army Ammunition Plant," Firth explained. "We saw at sample location below the ammunition plant, we found detection of a PFAS compound that we didn't see anywhere else."

Firth noted the chemicals are a growing concern for people and the environment. They can cause cancer, liver damage and a host of other health effects. He added the Environmental Protection Agency has proposed drinking water standards expected to be finalized this year, setting limits of four parts per trillion in drinking water.

Firth emphasized their focus is to collaborate with lawmakers and offer suggestions for PFAS testing in order to better comprehend the environmental effects of this type of pollution.

"We need to have greater testing; we need to have better testing," Firth urged. "We need to understand what the problems are. We need to not ignore the fact that we have this contamination in our waterways. Wastewater treatment plants have the authority to control their influent."

He pointed out "forever chemicals" are used in consumer products, cosmetics, food packaging and many other things. The Tennessee Department of Environmental Conservation is also conducting a statewide sampling initiative to test all public drinking-water sources for PFAS compounds.

Disclosure: The Sierra Club contributes to our fund for reporting on Climate Change/Air Quality, Energy Policy, Environment, and Environmental Justice. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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