By Peter Chawaga
One of the most pervasive and concerning drinking water contaminants on the planet is set to receive significant restrictions across the country as the new year begins.
“Laws and regulations restricting ‘forever chemicals’ in more than a half dozen states are entering effect in 2023, including the start of a timeline for a first-in-the-nation ban on PFAS in all products in Maine,” Bloomberg Law reported. “Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a class of chemicals that don’t naturally break down, so they accumulate in water, soil, and in the human body. Studies have shown that high levels increase the risk of cancer and other adverse health effects.”
The impact of PFAS on drinking water consumers has been an area of growing focus for environmental advocates, industrial wastewater operations, and drinking water treatment systems. Though research is being conducted, the contaminants are notoriously difficult to remove from drinking water plant influent. And while there has been action to hold industrial operations accountable for leaking PFAS in their wastewater, some of the new regulations are designed to prevent the use of the compounds in the first place.
“LD 1503 (in Maine) bans intentionally added PFAS from all products of any kind sold in the state, broken up with intermediate deadlines designed to allow industry to adapt,” according to Bloomberg Law. “The state law aims to ban the substance in products across the board by 2030, except when their use is unavoidable.”
Many others will place new burdens on drinking water treatment operations to monitor for and report on PFAS presence. Pending regulations in Pennsylvania would require water providers to routinely monitor for PFAS and treat influent that exceeds certain thresholds. Public utilities in Rhode Island will have to monitor and meet a PFAS cap for drinking water effluent as well.
This year’s wave of regulations is yet another indicator that PFAS contamination has reached a national tipping point and a sign of just how critical drinking water treatment is for consumers all over the country.
“We know these are toxic chemicals and more and more research is showing that in many areas no level is safe, so we are trying,” said Pat Fahy, the sponsor of a New York State bill meant to ban PFAS use in clothing. “It started with Hoosick Falls and Flint, Michigan. It really took that to understand the importance of getting (PFAS) out of the water.”
To read more about the rules that govern drinking water treatment operations, visit Water Online’s Regulations And Legislation Solutions Center.