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Health Officials Lift PFAS Contamination Advisory On Farmington River

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

State public health officials have removed a consumption advisory on fish taken from a portion of the Farmington River. That advisory had been in place since June 2019 after a spill at a nearby airport hangar washed thousands of gallons of toxic chemicals into the river.

The spill at the Signature Flight hangar at Bradley International Airport released PFAS, per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, which are linked to a variety of bad health effects, including thyroid disease and cancer.

After the spill, chemicals made their way into drainage pipes, through a wastewater treatment plant, and ultimately into the Farmington River.

In response, public health officials issued a warning to avoid consuming fish caught in a portion of the Farmington River in Windsor, because sampling detected elevated levels of PFAS in dozens of fish.

But subsequent sampling detected lower contamination levels.

After several rounds of tests, the state Department of Public Health said Tuesday it is removing its PFAS consumption advisory for the affected portions of the Farmington River.

The agency said recent samples of dozens of fish show PFAS levels dropped more than 70% from samples taken more than a year ago.

“The latest tissue samples measured 18 ppb (parts per billion), a decline of more than 71% from samples taken in September 2019 and below 20 ppb, which is the cutoff for unlimited consumption in Connecticut’s consumption advisory guidelines for PFAS in fish,” the agency said in a statement. “Due to these results, DPH has removed the current fish advisory for the lower section of the Farmington River.”

While the PFAS advisory is officially lifted, DPH said anglers should still be aware of other consumption advisories in place, including those for mercury contamination in some Connecticut freshwater fish.

More information on current contamination advisories can be found on the state’s website.

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 by phone at 860-275-7297 or by email: pskahill@ctpublic.org.
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