News Feature | August 30, 2023

New EPA Data Shows 27 Million Americans Receive Drinking Water Contaminated With PFAS

Peter Chawaga - editor

By Peter Chawaga


The U.S. EPA has announced a new official estimate for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) contamination in public water systems, releasing data that could shape forthcoming regulation and compensation from manufacturers.

“Toxic ‘forever chemicals’ have contaminated water systems around the nation, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced,” according to The Hill. “The EPA said that two of the most dangerous types of forever chemicals, known as PFOA and PFOS, were found at unsafe levels in between 7.8 and 8.5% of public water systems.”

The prevalence of PFAS in drinking water has been increasingly understood for some time. But official data from the EPA could impact the agency’s forthcoming limits on the contaminants, which will have major ramifications for the drinking water and wastewater treatment industries. And the data may shape ongoing legal battles between state attorneys general and the manufacturers that contaminated the environment with these substances in the first place.

“Earlier this year, the EPA proposed regulating PFOA and PFOS, saying it would limit them to just 4 parts per trillion — but the new data shows that even some water systems serving big cities have levels of the chemicals that are higher than this,” The Hill reported. “The findings add to a body of literature indicating that these chemicals are widespread.”

Though the widespread nature of PFAS may already be well understood, the data indicates that more than 27 million Americans are being served public drinking water with contaminants that exceed the EPA’s reporting limits. And these initial reports are likely just the beginning.

“The new data represent a fraction of the additional PFAS sample results from thousands of public water systems that the EPA expects to collect and publish over the next few years,” per USA Today. “Of the nearly 2,200 systems included so far, 431 measured PFAS above the EPA’s reporting level … That’s almost 20%.”

Even those within the environmental protection field appeared to be shocked by the results.

“I’m like, lifting my jaw off the floor as we’re pulling the data,” Scott Faber of the Environmental Working Group told The Hill. “Millions of people have been drinking dangerously high levels of PFAS all of their lives and are learning about it today.”

To read more about how drinking water treatment operations can enforce PFAS regulations, visit Water Online’s Drinking Water Contaminant Removal Solutions Center.