Growing Awareness

Growing awareness of PFAS (Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances) or "forever chemicals" is increasing throughout the United States.

While the science behind this emerging global issue is still being studied, Salem is taking early steps to share with the community testing data and the potential risks of PFAS in the City. The information on this website is being voluntarily shared with the community to help develop action plans as more information and science-based best practices become available. 

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What is PFAS?

Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) are a Group of Manufactured Chemicals

PFAS are a group of manufactured chemicals that have been used in industry and consumer products since the 1940s because of their useful properties. There are thousands of different PFAS compounds, some of which have been more widely used and studied than others.

Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA) and Perfluorooctane Sulfonate (PFOS), for example, are two of the most widely used and studied chemicals in the PFAS group. PFOA and PFOS have been phased out of use in the United States and replaced with other compounds in recent years.

One common characteristic of concern of PFAS chemicals is that many are resistant to breaking down in the environment and, over time, can build up in plants, animals, and the environment.

5 things Salem is doing to address PFAS

1. Testing for PFAS in our Drinking Water

This year, we are analyzing our North Santiam River water supply for 29 PFAS compounds. Sampling will occur in January, April, July, and October. We will test for PFAS in our aquifer storage recovery wells in November 2023 and May 2024. 

2. Testing for PFAS in our Wastewater System

We are collaborating with the Oregon Association of Clean Water Agencies and the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, to voluntarily collect data on PFAS on a quarterly basis in support of the development of state and national regulatory strategies.  

This includes testing for PFAS:

  • Before it enters the wastewater treatment plant 
  • Treated wastewater
  • Biosolids created from the wastewater treatment process
  • Willamette River water upstream and downstream of the Willow Lake Wastewater Treatment Facility.

3. Managing Leachate Agreements with Our Landfill Partners

Recognizing that leachate from landfills is a common source of PFAS in our wastewater system, we will continue to review and adjust leachate agreements as more is known about PFAS in wastewater and regulations are developed. 

We will continue to track and expand our understanding of the emerging PFAS issue. As we learn more and regulations evolve, we will work with our landfill partners to update leachate agreements, as needed, to ensure we are following best practices when receiving leachate from our community landfills.

4. Sharing Information with the Public 

PFAS is a national issue that is garnering media and public interest. We will continue to update the public on this website with information about what is known about PFAS, results of testing in our drinking water and wastewater systems, and the actions we are taking to protect public health and the environment.

5. Building Partnerships to Find Long-Term Solutions

We will continue to work with Federal and State regulators, the Oregon Association of Clean Water Agencies, and other stakeholders, to understand, identify, and mitigate the impacts of PFAS on our community and vital water infrastructure systems.