PRESS RELEASE

Colorado May Have the Most PFAS Sites of Any State  

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For Immediate Release:  Monday, October 18, 2021
Contact:  Chandra Rosenthal (303) 898-0798; Monica Mercola mmercola@peer.org

 

Colorado May Have the Most PFAS Sites of Any State

 

EPA Identifies Around 120,000 Potential PFAS Sites in U.S. – Far More Than Ever

Denver — Colorado may bear the biggest PFAS burden of any state even as the PFAS footprint across the U.S. may be growing several times larger than previously reported, according to documents released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that some 120,000 industrial facilities “may be handling” per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), one-sixth of which are in Colorado.

Colorado has around 21,000 sites that “may be handling PFAS,” more than 50% above the next state, California, with around 13,000 sites, with Oklahoma third.  These numbers carry troubling implications for prospects of controlling this toxic chemical’s spread.

PFAS are associated with damage to the liver and kidneys, as well as heightened risk of testicular and kidney cancer. Because they do not break down in the environment and bioaccumulate in humans and the food chain they are called “Forever Chemicals.”

The EPA figures indicate that Colorado hosts more than 16% of the nation’s total potential sites involving PFAS manufacture, import, handling, or storage and of the national total and show –

  • The overwhelming percentage of sites that “may be handling PFAS” in Colorado (around 86%) are associated with the oil and gas industry. The number of oil and gas sites listed, around 18,000, dwarf the next most frequent industry, waste management, accounting for less than a thousand sites;
  • Nearly one-third of Colorado sites that “may be handling PFAS” (29% or close to 6,200 facilities) are located within three miles of communities with more than 25% minority residents; and
  • More than 200 of the Colorado facilities listed have a history of environmental violations.

“Colorado may be the PFAS capital of the United States,” stated Rocky Mountain PEER Director Chandra Rosenthal, who obtained the figures under the Freedom of Information Act.  “Besides air and water pollution, the petroleum industry may be creating a deadly contamination legacy of Forever Chemicals in Colorado.”

Details about industrial use are hard to come by since mandatory reporting is limited to industries producing or importing more than 10,000 pounds at any site in any year.  Industries simply using or storing PFAS, in any quantity, are not required to report.  Further, many industries may not know if they are handling PFAS or using ingredients, products, or machinery that contain PFAS.

Compounding the fragmentary nature of the data is the rapid increase in the number of Confidential Information Business (CBI) claims from companies. CBI is broadly defined as proprietary information that a company claims could cause substantial business injury to the owner if released.  EPA allows PFAS manufacturers and importers to claim as CBI information the company name, the parent company, the site address, and even the state and zip code. Nor does EPA report any data on PFAS where the chemical name itself is claimed as CBI.

“This level of corporate secrecy means that emergency responders, health departments, and state regulators often do not know what toxic chemicals are being produced and used in their communities,” added Rosenthal, noting that there are more than 9,000 types of PFAS and almost none are subject to any regulation.  “EPA’s history of inaction on PFAS means that Colorado should take the lead in creating safeguards against exposure from thousands of possible sources.”

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See EPA list of potential PFAS sites on a Map Where you can look at breakdowns by Location, Industry, Environmental justice indicators, & Enforcement history

View the rise in CBI claims for PFAS

Read PEER petition to classify PFAS as hazardous waste