"Staggeringly high" levels of the PFOA, which probably causes cancer among other health problems, have been found in the Conasauga River in Tennessee, according to the Chattanooga Times Free Press.
Perfluorooctanoic acid, also known as PFOA or C8, makes the fish in the river unsafe to eat, according to an independent researcher. And it got there because a industrial treatment plant sprays upwards of 30 million gallons of treated wastewater onto a 9,200-acre peninsula, under a government-sanctioned plan. There are no limits set on the amount of PFOA that can flow out of a wastewater treatment plant, allowing industry to essentially pollute without limit, according to the Times Free Press.
In economics, they talk about "externalities" the costs that aren't accounted for in the price ofa product. This pollution is a cost we never reckoned we'd pay when we laid down that stain-resistant carpet. More than that, it's a case of industry failing to heed warnings, and government failing to crack down to protect public health and the environment. This polluted water is being sprayed today, and the river's contamination is growing worse.
Industry is now, at the behest of the Environmental Protection Agency, phasing out the use of PFOA by 2015.
It's too late for the Conasauga River, among other places fouled by this chemical. Too late for the people living near there who might want to undertake one of the most basic human endeavors: catching a fish and eating it. There's no word on whether cleaning the river is possible, or how long it might take. Nor is it clear how costly such a cleanup might be or who would pay for it.
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