Federal PFAS regs to saddle cities with unwieldy costs

By Miranda Willson | 03/13/2024 01:36 PM EDT

Difficulties pinpointing sources of “forever chemicals” pollution leave communities with no one to hold responsible for staggering water treatment costs.

Flathead Lake near Kalispell, Montana.

Flathead Lake near Kalispell, Montana. The city, located “at the headwaters of the state,” detected PFAS in its water, but the source of the contamination is unclear. Nicholas Geranios/AP

This story was updated March 14.

Known as the gateway to Glacier National Park, Kalispell, Montana, has long taken pride in its pristine water supply. So when “forever chemicals” were detected in the groundwater in 2021, city officials were stumped.

“How? Why? What? When?” Susie Turner, who leads the public works department, said of her initial reaction. “We bragged about our water source being wonderful. We’ve never had to deal with anything to this effect.”


Kalispell is not alone. A U.S. Geological Survey last year found that at least 45 percent of tap water in the U.S. contains one or more per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, some of which are known or suspected to be toxic.