It’s been nearly six years since city officials in Martinsburg, WV, learned that one of the wells supplying drinking water to their community contained harmful levels of per– and polyfluoroalkyl substances, extremely persistent compounds often called “forever chemicals.”
Authorities promptly took the tainted well out of service and only resumed using it in December 2017 after installing a granular activated-carbon treatment system to deal with the contaminants. Since the treatment system went online, PFAS concentrations in Martinsburg’s water have been below the health threshold recommended by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
But the compounds have continued to show up in the area’s groundwater and local streams, and questions remain about health effects from area residents’ lengthy exposures to the toxic chemicals.
A recent report by the U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry found that residents of Martinsburg and surrounding Berkeley County who drank public tapwater still had elevated levels of two PFAS compounds in their bodies roughly 3.5 years after the contaminated well had been taken offline.