A spill of firefighting foam has been detected in three West Virginia waterways

SISSONVILLE, W.Va. (AP) — A spill of firefighting foam has been detected in three southern West Virginia waterways, and potential downstream intakes have been notified, regulators said Saturday.

The state Department of Environmental Protection said an undetermined amount of the expanding foam used to suppress fires spilled from a contractor’s workshop near Sissonville either late Friday evening or early Saturday. The contractor had been using the foam at an underground fire at an abandoned coal mine in eastern Kanawha County.

The foam was later detected in sections of Tupper Creek, the Pocatalico River and Wolfpen Branch. Significant concentrations were not expected to move downstream, the agency said in a statement.

“At this time, investigators have not observed any impacts to aquatic life, but will continue to actively monitor the areas,” the statement said.

The DEP said the foam can cause skin and eye irritation if contact occurs. It said the foam didn’t contain chemicals belonging to a group known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, known collectively as PFAS. Those compounds, described as “forever chemicals” because they don’t degrade naturally in the environment, have been linked to numerous health problems, including cancer.

Staff from the agency’s Homeland Security Emergency Response unit and Environmental Enforcement section were on scene along with the contractor and the foam’s manufacturer to locate all of the material and decide how to proceed with remediation. The agency’s staff will remain on site for the duration of the cleanup, the statement said.

Out of caution, the state Bureau for Public Health notified potential downstream water intakes, the statement said.