Persistent PFAS Water Contamination Plagues California Mobile Home Park

glass of water

Between 2017-2019, Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) was found at 1,229x above EWG's Health Guideline. (Credit: Canva Pro)

by | May 8, 2024

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In Red Bluff, California, at Friendly Acres Mobile Home Park, residents have been confronted with a troubling reality: their well water, once trusted and consumed without question, is contaminated with per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). This discovery, made in March of 2024, shocked many despite data indicating elevated PFAS levels dating back several years.

PFAS Contamination in Mobile Parks

PFAS, ubiquitous in modern products ranging from nonstick cookware to cleaning supplies, have increasingly raised concerns due to their association with adverse health effects, including cancer. Despite legislative efforts to address PFAS contamination in California, the challenges persist, particularly for small water systems like those serving mobile home parks.

California’s response to PFAS contamination includes legislation mandating notification and remediation measures for affected water systems. However, implementation gaps have left residents questioning why they weren’t informed earlier. The delayed notification underscores broader challenges in ensuring compliance and accountability, particularly in low-income communities disproportionately affected by PFAS contamination.

Anna Reade, a researcher at the Natural Resources Defense Council, underscores the gravity of long-term PFAS exposure, emphasizing its potential health ramifications. The prevalence of PFAS contamination in disadvantaged communities underscores systemic inequities, with industrial sites often located near these vulnerable populations.

Anna Reade:

“So, if you think about PFOA or PFOS, which is what we’re talking about in these wells, they have what we call half-lives of four, five, ten years. What that means is that it takes years for a PFAS that we ingest to eventually come out.”

The situation at Friendly Acres echoes similar struggles faced by residents of Pinegrove Mobile Home and RV Park in Crescent City, where PFAS contamination has persisted without adequate notification or remediation efforts.

Legislative Initiatives

Legislative initiatives, such as California’s PFAS bill spearheaded by former State Assembly member Cristina Garcia, aim to empower consumers and hold water providers accountable. However, the effectiveness of such measures hinges on enforcement and resource allocation, particularly for smaller water systems lacking the capacity to address contamination effectively.

The recent establishment of national PFAS limits by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) marks a pivotal step in addressing this pervasive issue. Federal funding allocated through initiatives like the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law offers hope for communities grappling with PFAS contamination, providing much-needed resources for remediation efforts.

Despite these promising developments, challenges persist, particularly in enforcing regulations and ensuring compliance at small water systems like mobile home parks. Greg Pierce, director of the Human Right to Water Solutions Lab at the University of California, Los Angeles, underscores the complexities of addressing water quality issues in such contexts, emphasizing the importance of scalability and efficiency.

“Small water systems, in general, have a lot of trouble with water quality,” says Greg Pierce. “You really want economies of scale for the water system. That’s what makes it most efficient.” According to Pierce, ensuring compliance with the new federal PFAS regulations at locations such as mobile home parks will pose a significant challenge.

As residents grapple with the uncertainty surrounding PFAS contamination and its potential health impacts, the urgency of comprehensive action becomes increasingly apparent. Addressing PFAS contamination requires fair solutions that prioritize the health and welfare of all communities, regardless of their socioeconomic status.

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