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State Says PFAS Levels In Part Of Farmington River Safe For One Fish Meal A Month

PFAS chemicals
Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection
Firefighting foam spilled into the Farmington River in June 2019.

State officials announced Tuesday that PFASlevels in a polluted portion of the Farmington River appear to be dropping. As a result, an earlier ban on eating fish taken from the river has been relaxed to one meal a month.  

The announcement comes after a chemical spill at a private hangar at Bradley International Airport last June that released about 40,000 gallons of firefighting foam containing per and polyfluoroalkyl substances into storm drains and, eventually, the Farmington River. 

PFAS are a family of chemicals linked to liver, immune and developmental problems in humans.

Since the spill, health officials had said people should avoid eating any fish caught downstream of the Rainbow Dam in Windsor. But in a statement Tuesday, the state Department of Public Health said samples of fish tissue indicate PFAS levels are dropping. 

As a result, the advisory has been relaxed. 

Officials say anglers now can eat fish taken from the area, as long as they limit consumption to one meal a month.

Note to anglers: The restriction does not apply to shad. 

“Adult-size American shad are found in the Farmington River from April until June each year and generally spend most of their lives in the ocean,” the DPH said in a statement. “The shad that will be returning to the Farmington River in the spring of 2020 were not likely exposed to the PFAS releases that occurred in the lower Farmington River in June and October of 2019. For this reason, shad can be eaten with more frequency than one meal per month.”

Patrick Skahill is a reporter and digital editor at Connecticut Public. Prior to becoming a reporter, he was the founding producer of Connecticut Public Radio's The Colin McEnroe Show, which began in 2009. Patrick's reporting has appeared on NPR's Morning Edition, Here & Now, and All Things Considered. He has also reported for the Marketplace Morning Report. He can be reached at pskahill@ctpublic.org.

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