OGEECHEE RIVERKEEPER FINDS DANGEROUS PFAS CHEMICALS IN FISH
PFAs are carcinogenic ‘forever’ chemicals that bioaccumulate in fish and other organisms consumed by humans
After Ogeechee Riverkeeper (ORK) discovered that Milliken’s Longleaf facility was discharging polyfluoroalkyls and perfluoroalkyls (PFAS) chemicals, ORK initiated a pilot study to determine if these chemicals were bioaccumulating in fish regularly consumed by people from the river. Initial results show that all fish sampled had detectable limits of PFAS chemicals in their tissue fillets. These results are publicly available at ogeecheeriverkeeper.org/
These fish were collected between the HWY 80 and I-16 bridges and included representatives from three species (largemouth bass, redbreast sunfish, and bluegill). ORK is continuing the pilot study and will be sampling throughout the watershed. The study will include other species of fish.
PFAs are a category of manmade carcinogenic chemicals and are considered ‘forever chemicals’ because they do not break down in the environment and they accumulate in wildlife, plants and humans. “The chemicals build up in the fish, and then people eat the fish,” Riverkeeper Damon Mullis explains. “These chemicals have been shown to have many negative health effects, and eating contaminated fish is a pathway for them to enter our bodies.”
ORK discovered Milliken was discharging these chemicals during an investigation leading up to the facilities’ permit renewal. In 2014, the facility was required to conduct a study to determine if the facility was discharging PFAS chemicals, and if found discharging these chemicals, it was required to perform a fish tissue study to determine the extent of contamination. ORK reviewed the test that was submitted, and accepted by GA EPD, as evidence that the facility was not discharging these chemicals, and determined it was insufficient. ORK now believes the facility has been discharging these chemicals since 2006.
“These first results came from a relatively small sample,” Mullis said. “But it included three species and it’s enough to show that the chemicals are present and at levels that warrant much more investigation. We need GA EPD to require Milliken to conduct the robust study from a third party that should have been completed in 2014. And they need to do it before they issue a new permit to Milliken. The results of that study should be used to inform the new permit and how PFAS should be regulated in it. The health of the estuary, and the people that consume its fish and shellfish are at stake.”
The public can attend a virtual hearing on Tuesday, November 17, 7 p.m. and is encouraged to submit comments by Friday, November 20, 5 p.m. Links to register for the virtual public hearing and comment submission form are available at ogeecheeriverkeeper.org/
About Ogeechee Riverkeeper: Ogeechee Riverkeeper 501(c)(3) works to protect, preserve, and improve the water quality of the Ogeechee River basin, which includes all of the streams flowing out to Ossabaw Sound and St. Catherine’s Sound. At 245 miles long, the Ogeechee River system drains more than 5,000 square miles of land. More at ogeecheeriverkeeper.org.