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Park City’s fluoro ski wax ban coincides with EPA’s move to regulate ‘forever chemicals’

Rasmus Stegfeldt of Sweden trains for the men's moguls World Cup race as the moon rises over the mountains Thursday, Feb. 2, 2023, in Park City, Utah.
Jeff Swinger
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AP
Rasmus Stegfeldt of Sweden trains for the men's moguls World Cup race as the moon rises over the mountains Thursday, Feb. 2, 2023, in Park City, Utah.

Polyfluoroalkyl substances — known as “forever chemicals” — can be found in numerous, everyday products like nonstick pans, food packaging and, of interest to many Utahns, ski wax. There are thousands of these chemicals, but one of them, PFOS, was a common ingredient in fluorinated ski wax and it was found in Park City’s groundwater last summer.

Skiers and snowboarders have been using fluorinated wax for a speed boost for decades, but the International Ski Federation is expected to ban them from competition later this year. Many wax manufacturers have also explored alternatives to the products.

Park City implemented a take-back program last December and banned the use of the wax outright in February.

“We partnered with Recycle Utah on a ski wax takeback program and they've had incredible success from the community in turning in fluoro waxes,” said City Water Quality Manager Michelle De Haan. “They have at least three large kitchen-size trash cans full of it.”

The amount in Park City’s groundwater is about seven parts per trillion, De Haan said. That’s higher than the Environmental Protection Agency’s newly proposed regulatory standard. Going forward, the proposed limits for PFOA and PFOS will be set at four parts per trillion, which is the lowest level that can be reliably detected.

“This wasn't a surprise to us at all,” she said. “We've been really preparing for this announcement and my team has been really proactive with the ban that we've put in place recently.”

The good news, De Haan said, is that Park City does not rely exclusively on groundwater. There are also effective ways to remove PFAS like carbon filters and ion exchange purification.

Speaking to reporters in North Carolina while announcing the new standards, EPA Administrator Michael Regan said despite their widespread use, it was time to step in and regulate PFAS in drinking water.

“It's the resilient and durable qualities that make these chemicals so useful in everyday life,” he said. “But it's also what makes them particularly harmful to people and the environment … These chemicals can accumulate in the body over time, and we know that long-term exposure to certain types of PFAS have been linked to serious illnesses, including cancer, liver damage and high cholesterol.”

In a statement, the Utah Department of Environmental Quality said it knows long-term exposure to certain PFAS is linked to health risks and is committed to ensuring the state has safe and reliable drinking water.

“The proposed EPA limits give the Utah Division of Drinking Water the ability to work with public water systems to ensure that PFAS is addressed in Utah,” it said. “If a water system does have results above the proposed four parts per trillion limit, we will work with them to identify the cause, notify their consumers, and take necessary steps to reduce PFAS levels.”

Formal adoption of the EPA’s recommendations is expected later this year.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Sean is KUER’s politics reporter.
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