river sites blighted by forever chemicals

PAN calls for further investigation of Portugal’s river sites blighted by forever chemicals

Research shows Portugal has 10 areas polluted by cancer-causing PFAS – and many more where contamination is ‘presumed’

PAN (People, Animals, Nature party) wants inspection entities to investigate the presence of carcinogenic substances, dubbed “forever chemicals”, in Tejo waters, following the study released recently by a European research and journalism consortium.

In a statement, PAN’s Santarem branch says that besides having questioned Portuguese Environment Agency (APA) on this situation, it has approached the General Inspection of Agriculture, Sea, Environment and Spatial Planning (IGAMAOT) and SEPN, the GNR’s Nature and Environmental Protection Service.

For the party, Portugal should “follow European demands in this matter, reducing the use of these substances (technically called PFAS, standing for Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) more and more until their use is definitively banned” in 2026.

“Despite knowing that, due to its high danger, the use of PFAS substances should be mandatorily banned by 2026, it is urgent to oblige the Portuguese State to follow, right now, the limits of this matter in order to mitigate their impact, because the current use of these substances is growing and, due to their characteristics, will remain, causing irreparable damage in the long term,” says the statement.

PAN outlines the danger facing citizens: PFAS are “synthesis chemicals, invisible, odourless, ubiquitous, that pollute rivers, oceans, soils and even the air. They are integrated in the metabolism of plants and animals, accumulating over time, consubstantiating negative and irrecoverable impact on living beings”.

The map released last February 23rd points out ten places in Portugal where contamination has been identified as equal to or greater than 10 nanogrammes per litre of water (ng/l), with Muge, in the municipality of Salvaterra de Magos (in the district of Santarém), reaching 3200 ng/l, which is substantially higher than all the others, explains PAN.

Other points mentioned are Monte da Vinha (Elvas, Portalegre), with 750 ng/l, Albufeira de Crestuma-Lever (Vila Nova de Gaia, Porto), with 460 ng/l, Ermidas do Sado (Santiago do Cacém, Setúbal), with 450 ng/l, Penide/Areias de Vilar (Barcelos, Braga) with 350 ng/l, Montemor-o-Velho (Coimbra), with 240 ng/l, Bravães (Ponte da Barca, Viana do Castelo), with 190 ng/l, Praia Pontilhão da Valeta (Arcos de Valdevez, Viana do Castelo), with 160 ng/l, and Ribeira Vale do Morto (Elvas, Portalegre), with 10 ng/l.

But these are just the sites where contamination is proven. There are so many more where it is presumed (see map). Thus while regions like the Algarve ‘escape’ proven contamination, there are nine sites where it is presumed: Lagos ETAR (water treatment plant), Portimão aerodrome, Portimão airport, Albufeira /, Vale de Faro and Vilamoura ETARs, Faro airport, Faro ETAR and finally the ETAR of Vila Real de Santo António.

Following disclosure of the results of the Forever Pollution Project, APA has said that since 2016, it “has integrated in its monitoring programmes the determination of the substance Perfluorooctane sulfonic acid and its derivatives (PFOS), in the matrices surface water and biota-fish”, under European directives transposed into national law.

APA points out that “this substance is the only one that is legislated with environmental quality standards (EQS) for the matrices referred to and is part of a large group of more than 4700 substances called PFAS”.

PFAS are used in a wide variety of consumer products and industrial applications due to their physicochemical properties, as they repel oil and water and are resistant to very high temperatures. These substances are used in non-stick coatings, namely for kitchen utensils, paper food packaging, creams and cosmetics, textiles for furniture and outerwear, paints, photography, chrome plating, among others,” says the agency.

Water supplier EPAL (Empresa Portuguesa de Águas Livres) has also issued a statement ensuring that its quality control plan meets the parameters set by European directives. Indeed it suggests regular analysis proves “excellent quality of water” in the Lisbon region.

[email protected]