Kreutz Creek samples show highest levels of PFAS in the nation – York Daily Record
When Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper Ted Evgeniadis began monitoring PFAS contamination in Kreutz Creek earlier this year, he expected to find levels of the harmful synthetic chemical in the water.
PFAS – short for Perfluoroalkyl and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances – are ubiquitous. The family of PFAS compounds are used in the manufacturing of food packaging to nonstick cookware to electronics to nearly everything. They are called “forever chemicals” because the compounds do not break down naturally.
PFAS have been found in a lot of waterways, prompting the national Waterkeepers Alliance to launch a survey this year to get a grip on the scope of the contamination.
What Evgeniadis found in Kreutz Creek was stunning. He found not just elevated levels of the chemical in the water. He found levels that were exponentially higher than standards set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the highest levels found in any of the 114 waterways the alliance tested.
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In June, the EPA updated what it calls updated Drinking Water Health Advisories for two groups of PFAS – perfluorooctanoic acid, known as PFOA, and perfluorooctane sulfonic acid, PFOS, for short – are .02 parts per trillion for PFOS and .004 parts per trillion for PFOA. The advisory is not legally binding and the EPA is still developing its standards for drinking water. Kreutz Creek, while it does flow into the Susquehanna River, is not a source of drinking water.
Still, Evgeniadis’ samples found levels at 374.3 parts per trillion for PFOS and 847 parts per trillion for PFOA.
“They’re not just high,” Evgeniadis said. “We’re talking about serious contamination.”
The levels are concerning because PFAS, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, have been known to cause a variety of serious health conditions, including cancer, liver and kidney disease, reproductive issues and hormonal disruptions. A CDC study found PFAS in the blood of 97 percent of Americans.
And even though the EPA has set standards for PFAS, the Waterkeepers Alliance asserts that the agency’s efforts to monitor the chemicals’ levels in waterways is inadequate, prompting it to conduct its own survey.
One-hundred and thirteen waterkeepers in 34 states and the District of Columbia collected monthly samples and submitted them for testing, ultimately finding the compounds exceeding EPA standards in 83 percent of the waterways sampled.
Evgeniadis said he tracked the high levels of the chemical compounds in Kreutz Creek to the wastewater treatment plant at Republic Services’ Modern Landfill in Windsor Township, taking samples upstream and downstream from the plant’s discharge pipe.
Evgeniadis has been sampling the creek for at least two years to monitor the effects of the discharge from the landfill. The samples, he said, revealed lithium, uranium and arsenic. He also found elevated levels of manganese, which stains the creek’s waters a rusty brown color.
But, he said, “PFAS are the biggest issue we have at the site.”
Modern Landfill has been operating its wastewater treatment facility under a consent decree with the state Department of Environmental Protection since August 2020, pledging to upgrade the facility by May of this year. Evgeniadis said that deadline has been extended to May 2023.
“Modern Landfill has taken away the constitutional right for residents and the public to safely recreate and fish around Kreutz Creek,” Evgeniadis said. “The owners of the landfill must be held accountable to the highest standards in effectively treating their wastewater to remove PFAS and other harmful pollutants.”
Republic Services, which has owned the landfill since 1999, responded in a statement that it “cannot speak to the quality or accuracy of the sampling data provided by the alliance, nor the methodology it used.”
The landfill has operated a wastewater treatment plant at the landfill since 1988 and, according to the company’s statement, “regulatory oversight of our operations is rigorous.”
Discharge from the plant is monitored regularly, the company said, with the results reported to DEP every month. The company noted that it is “fully compliant” with the August 2020 consent decree.
The company is in the midst of building a new $23 million treatment plant using technology capable of treating PFAS. The plant is expected to be operational by mid-2023.
The company statement concluded, “We care about the environment, and we care about our neighbors. We will continue to manage our operations safely and responsibly, and in full compliance with regulatory standards.”
Columnist/reporter Mike Argento has been a York Daily Record staffer since 1983. Reach him at email@example.com.