Understanding the “Forever Chemicals” Crisis in Buffalo, Iowa

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Residents in Buffalo, Iowa have found themselves in a whirlwind of health concerns and confusion as alarming levels of PFAS chemicals—often termed “forever chemicals”—were detected in the city’s main water well. As a legal professional with a focus on advocating for the rights of injured parties, it’s essential to shed light on the situation and its broader implications. 


Key Points: 

  • Buffalo, Iowa’s main water well tested with high levels of PFAS chemicals, prompting concern among residents. 
  • PFAS, or “forever chemicals,” have links to serious health issues, including birth defects and cancer. 
  • Janie’s Riverview Cafe in Buffalo switched to bottled water due to concerns over the city’s water safety. 
  • The EPA’s legal limit for PFAS is set at 4 parts per trillion (PPT). 
  • Buffalo’s backup water well, Well #2, showed lower levels of PFAS, with two common compounds undetectable. 

When Janie Nesbitt, the owner of Janie’s Riverview Cafe, noticed her water turning yellow, her initial thought was a building issue. Little did she realize that this discoloration was a manifestation of a more profound problem—contamination of the city’s water supply with PFAS chemicals. This revelation compelled her to serve bottled water, putting the safety of her customers first. 

Nesbitt’s story mirrors the sentiments of other residents. Wendy Lowe voiced the dilemma that many face, choosing between tap water with known contaminants and bottled water with unknown regulation.  

PFAS chemicals are manmade and have been utilized in products like nonstick cooking items. Their health implications can’t be ignored. David Cwiertny, a chemist from the University of Iowa, warns of the potential health effects, especially if consumed over a lifetime. Options for safe drinking water include using carbon filters, a solution recommended by experts. 

After the detection of high PFAS levels in Well #1, the city of Buffalo shifted to a backup well, Well #2. Recent tests from this backup showed encouraging results with undetectable levels of PFOA and PFOS—two common PFAS compounds. However, PFBA, another PFAS compound, was detected at 3.8 PPT. Unlike PFOA and PFOS, there’s no federal regulation for PFBA in drinking water. The city remains committed to ensuring safe drinking water for its residents. They will continue testing Well #2 for PFAS every three months while it’s in use. 

As someone who firmly believes in advocating for the rights of victims, it’s essential to be informed and understand the implications of such situations. Buffalo’s PFAS crisis underscores the need for stricter regulations and more transparent communication from officials. Only with knowledge can residents make informed choices and seek the justice they deserve. 


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