The West Morgan-East Lawrence Water Authority (WMEL) advised roughly 100,000 Alabama residents not to use their tap water for drinking or cooking, as it has been contaminated with potentially hazardous chemicals that can cause cancer, birth defects, and developmental problems in children.
The warning comes on the heels of a US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) advisory that revealed higher than previously thought levels of synthetic chemicals known as PFOS (Perfluorooctane sulfonate) and PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid) in Alabama waters. Scientists found PFOS and PFOA in the blood of “nearly all the people they tested,” but in low concentrations, the EPA said in its May 19 warning.
WMEL general manager Don Sims has advised residents in Lawrence and Morgan Counties to avoid tap water for either drinking or cooking until further notice.
The utility supplies water to nearly 100,000 people in the two counties, as well as up to 10,000 direct residential customers.
“I recommend that all our customers do not drink our water until we are able to bring the temporary system our engineer is designing online,” Sims said at a news conference.
The warning covers not only fresh water but even water boiled and filtered at home since neither method can remove the chemical contaminants.
After building up in people and animals over time, PFOS and PFOA can also cause liver and thyroid damage, as well as immune system problems, with small children and expectant women the two categories most at risk.