Community resilience and response following PFAS contamination
Water is a critical resource for life, and communities are dependent upon reliable access to clean
water to maintain stable quality of life. Issues of water contamination threaten this stability, creating uncertainty, threatening public health, and necessitating community response. One emerging water contamination issue involves a family of industrial chemicals called Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS). This study uses an integrated multi-theory approach to examine the processes of Resilience and Collective Action within a community experiencing issues of PFAS contamination. Results indicate that the community was generally successful in enacting resilience, however some challenges were encountered in the form of high levels of uncertainty, inaccessibility of technical information, challenges foregrounding productive action, and challenges maximizing transformative potential. Results also indicated the community was general successful with collective action in the immediate aftermath of the issue. The community struggled to maintain collective action over a long period and to transition to high level advocacy. Results demonstrated that existing theoretical frames are limited in their ability to predict effective resilience and collective action in events of long-term water contamination. These limitations are described in detail and the potential for expansion of these theories is discussed. Suggestions to improve future responses to issues of PFAS contamination, as well as suggestions for intervention into the community of focus are offered.