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Do you have PFAS in your water? Washington state has an online tool to help

Screenshot from Washington Department of Health PFAS dashboard
This online map shows where wells in Washington have (or haven't) been tested for the harmful chemicals known as PFAS.

The Washington Department of Health has launched a new online data dashboard that displays information about a harmful chemical that turns up in drinking water supplies.

Chemicals known as PFAS are linked to several health issues, including kidney cancer, increased cholesterol levels, decreased immune response, and low birth weight in infants.

The chemicals are found in firefighting foam used at airports around the country. They’ve been detected in many water supplies, including Airway Heights in Spokane County.

State Department of Health Toxicologist Barbara Morrissey says about a quarter of the 2,400 water systems around the state have been tested for the presence of PFAS.

“About 2 percent of them are finding PFAS in at least one of their water sources over our recommended limit. About 20% of water systems are finding any PFAS, and 80% of water systems tested so far are finding no PFAS in their water supply,” she said.

For public wells that supply water to communities, water system providers may be working to install special filters to protect customers or have turned off contaminated wells.

Morrissey says private well owners may also find the dashboard helpful.

“One of the ways they can use this new dashboard is they can go on and look up their location and they can see if PFAS has been detected in the groundwater anywhere near their wells and that might help them make the decision if they want to test," she said.

Morrissey says DOH has been trying to get funding for private well owners to check their water. She says the legislature approved a small amount of money that should become available in July.

A bigger question is where funding might come from to provide filtration if contamination is found in private wells above the threshold considered hazardous.