Minnesota Tribal School Fights To Eliminate PFAS in Drinking Water

"As the United States begins to crack down on PFAS contamination, Indigenous communities are getting left behind."

"Laurie Harper, director of education for the Bug-O-Nay-Ge-Shig School, a K-12 tribal school on the Leech Lake Band Indian Reservation in north-central Minnesota, never thought that a class of chemicals called per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, would be an issue for her community. That’s partly because, up until a few months ago, she didn’t even know what PFAS were. “We’re in the middle of the Chippewa National Forest,” she said. “It’s definitely not something I had really clearly considered dealing with out here.”

Late last year, tests conducted by the Environmental Protection Agency revealed that her school’s drinking water wells were contaminated with PFAS. Some of the wells had PFAS levels as high as 160 parts per trillion — 40 times higher than the 4 part-per-trillion threshold the federal government recently proposed as a maximum safe limit. ...

After the EPA’s tests came back, Harper, who oversees education for the whole Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe, realized that some 300 students and faculty members at the Bug-O-Nay-Ge-Shig School had been consuming PFAS-tainted water for an indeterminate amount of time, perhaps since the school’s founding in 1975. Now, the chemicals are all Harper thinks about, and their presence in the school’s water supply is a constant reminder of a problem with no obvious solution."

Zoya Teirstein reports for Grist August 14, 2023.


Wisconsin: "Nearly 50 Residences In Town Of Stella Under PFAS Health Advisories" (States Newsroom)

Source: Grist, 08/16/2023