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Indiana Researcher Recruits Airway Heights Residents For PFAS Study

Courtesy of Washington Department of Ecology

An Indiana professor who is researching pollution in household drinking wells is reaching out to residents of Airway Heights.

Jackie MacDonald Gibson is studying how chemicals known as PFAS affect individual drinking wells.Gibson is the chair of Indiana University’s Department of Environmental and Occupational Health.

“There’s been a lot of work on PFAS in community water supplies, including in the Spokane area, around Airway Heights and so forth. But not so much is known about PFAS in wells nationwide," she said.

Gibson is interested in Airway Heights because PFAS was detected in the municipal water supply four years ago. The chemicals came from foam used in firefighting in and around Fairchild Air Force Base. PFAS has been linked to a variety of health problems, including cancer and thyroid issues, "and so we’re doing this study to understand how often these kind of contaminants occur in private wells and what actions need to be taken to protect people who rely on these water sources since they’re not regulated by the Safe Drinking Water Act," she said.

MacDonald Gibson says she’s been working with the Spokane Regional Health District to identify homeowners whose wells may have traces of PFAS. Those homeowners will receive post cards in the mail as early as this week, inviting them to participate. Those who agree to take part will receive free kits that allow them to collect samples of their water that they’ll submit to a lab for testing.