Buncefield water contamination was false alert, tests show

Independent tests have shown no evidence for cancer-causing PFOS in groundwater around the Buncefield blast site, calming fears of drinking water contamination.

In mid-May the Environment Agency found dangerous levels of Perfluorooctane Sulphonate (PFOS), an ingredient of firefighting foam, in groundwater near the explosion site (see related story). But the EA had described the results as "variable and inconsistent" and said further investigation was needed. The test results were passed on to the water company Three Valleys Water and the Drinking Water Inspectorate.

Further tests on groundwater and treated water samples have showed "no evidence" of PFOS contamination, said the Drinking Water Inspectorate, which supervised the tests.

"Consumers can therefore be reassured that there is no evidence that their tap water has been contaminated. Furthermore there is no evidence that the water company's sources of water in the vicinity of Buncefield have been adversely affected as a consequence of fire fighting water escaping from the site," the Inspectorate said in a statement.

Tests were carried out in two laboratories, one of which was "independent of all parties concerned," the inspectorate said. It added that it was satisfied with the response of the water company, Three Valleys Water, to the fire and its aftermath.

The Inspectorate made the results available to the EA, which first alerted them to the possible contamination, saying it will continue its "multi-agency" approach to drinking water quality monitoring.

Goska Romanowicz



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