Scientists Find Unsafe Level Of Chemicals In Charleston Drinking Water, Study Says

Charleston ranked in the top 10 for “forever chemicals” found in its drinking water.

An environmental watchdog group recently released a report that ranks Charleston, South Carolina in the top ten places in the U.S. with the highest amount of “forever chemicals” called PFAS in its drinking water

Scientists at the Environmental Working Group (EWG) tested water samples in 44 places across the United States for PFAS — chemicals linked to cancer and diseases that can’t break down once released — and found that Charleston water had the ninth highest levels detected. 

In numerical terms, scientists at the EWG found that Charleston had 33.3 PFAS chemicals (in parts per trillion), while the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) limit for PFAS is 70 ppt, but the EWG considers any amount over 1 ppt to be an unsafe level.

Water samples were collected between May and December 2019 for the study. 

Only three samples — from Seattle, Washington, Tuscaloosa, Alabama and Meridan, Mississippi —  tested below what the EWG considers to be hazardous to humans.

“Exposure to PFAS increases the risk of cancer, harms the development of the fetus and reduces the effectiveness of vaccines,” the EWG report said. 

Samples from Brunswick County, North Carolina and Quad Cities, Iowa had levels the worst levels in the county that exceeded the EPA’s limit — at 185.9 and 109.8. ppt 

“The results confirm that the number of Americans exposed to PFAS from contaminated tap water has been dramatically underestimated by previous studies, both from the Environmental Protection Agency and EWG’s own research,” the release said. 

South Carolina is one of several states with proposed bills that would limit the amount of PFAS in drinking water, the State newspaper reported in December. State representative J.A. Moore told the newspaper there’s a “lack of leadership” at the federal level regulating these chemicals in drinking water and South Carolina should take matters into its own hands. 

A 2018 study by the EWG found that South Carolina had at least 19 water utilities with contaminating levels of PFAS that were detected but not reported to the EPA.

Scientists have linked PFAS levels to a firefighting foam used on military bases, the State newspaper reported. 

In South Carolina, several military bases including Shaw, Myrtle Beach, and Charleston air force bases, McGrady Training Center and McEntire Air Guard Base have reported high levels of PFAS, according to an EWG interactive map. 

Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) officials said Wednesday they are working to finalize its statewide strategy for addressing PFAS substances this week. DHEC officials didn’t answer our specific questions about the study at the time of publication.



Mandy Matney is the news director at FITSNews. She’s an investigative journalist from Kansas who has worked for newspapers in Missouri, Illinois, and South Carolina before making the switch to FITS. She currently lives on Hilton Head Island where she enjoys beach life. Mandy also hosts the Murdaugh Murders podcast. Want to contact Mandy? Send your tips to



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