Iowa Capitol Dispatch: Muscatine mobile home park water has state’s highest ‘forever chemicals’

Kammerer Mobile Home Park. [courtesy]

By Jared Strong, Iowa Capitol Dispatch
The drinking water of an eastern Iowa mobile home park that serves about 100 people contains the highest concentrations of toxic chemicals that persist indefinitely in the environment that have been detected so far by a new state survey.

The water of Kammerer Mobile Home Park, which is just south of Muscatine in a low-lying area near the Mississippi River, is contaminated with trace amounts of perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances — commonly known as PFAS or “forever chemicals” — according to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.

The DNR’s tests of dozens of community drinking water supplies across the state have found detectable amounts of the chemicals in 10 of those water sources so far, but none have been as high as Kammerer’s.

That water had a combined concentration of the two most-studied PFAS of 29 parts per trillion. That’s less than half of the current federal safety threshold of 70 parts per trillion — which is under review and is likely to be revised downward — but it exceeds the safety levels established by several states.

It’s unclear whether any of the mobile home park’s residents are aware of the situation.

“They didn’t exceed anything with the (federal) health advisory — that’s the point at which we would require a public water supply to notify their customers,” said Roger Bruner, supervisor of the DNR’s water quality bureau that is conducting the statewide survey.

The owner of the mobile home park, Tim McCleary, did not respond to a request to comment for this article.

DNR records show the park draws water from a 140-feet-deep well that is highly susceptible to surface contamination because of the porous sediment in the area. There are a number of industrial sites nearby and an airport. Firefighting foams that contain PFAS, which have been used at airports, have been prime sources of contamination in other areas of the state.

Bruner said the precise source of contamination of the Kammerer drinking water is unclear because the state’s testing program is not designed to identify it.

“That would take quite a robust site investigation,” he said.

Other DNR tests have shown that the drinking water of several Mississippi River towns have PFAS, and that the river itself is contaminated.

Studies have shown that PFAS — used to make non-stick and stain-resistant products, among others — can accumulate in people’s bodies over time and are tied to a number of ailments, including cancers, liver damage, immunodeficiencies and abnormal infant and childhood development, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Bruner said more drinking water systems in Iowa will be tested by the DNR this year.