News Feature | May 14, 2019

Pennsylvania To Test 350 Water Systems For PFAS Contamination

Peter Chawaga - editor

By Peter Chawaga

lab.reg

This month, Pennsylvania will begin sampling more than 350 public water systems in an effort mandated by the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to curb per- and polyfluoroalkyl substance (PFAS) contamination.

The tests, which are expected to take place over the course of a year, are primarily meant to gather information about how serious the PFAS problem is in Pennsylvania.

“State scientists hope to gather ‘enough information to be able to tell whether or not we have a problem across the entire state,’ Lisa Daniels, director of DEP’s Bureau of Safe Drinking Water, said,” per Philly.com. “The plan targets systems that draw water from sources near airports, military installations, fire training schools, landfills, and Superfund sites.”

The ingestion of PFAS through drinking water has been linked to cancer and other serious health consequences. Pennsylvania has identified 493 public water systems that are located within half of a mile of potential PFAS contamination sources, according to Philly.com.

While state officials haven’t released a list of the specific systems that will be tested — because that list may change over the course of the effort — DEP did indicate that results will be released to water suppliers and the public, probably on a quarterly basis.

“If water systems are found to have chemicals above the current EPA health advisory level of 70 parts per trillion, the DEP will notify the water supplier, require public notification for water customers, and require remediation or treatment of the water supply,” Philly.com reported.

Pennsylvania is one of a handful of states that have wrestled with PFAS problems and grown impatient with the EPA’s seemingly slow process for instituting stricter regulations.

“The agency will not issue a final determination on whether to create [a maximum contaminant] level until the end of 2020; then the process to establish the level will take ‘several years,’ an EPA official said,” according to Philly.com. “Rather than wait for the EPA, Pennsylvania officials said, the state is moving forward with the sampling plan and creating its own maximum contaminant level. That should be completed within three years, but officials hope to get it done closer to two.”

And Pennsylvania is not the only state moving forward with such a plan in lieu of more aggressive action from the EPA. North Carolina’s Department of Environmental Quality is now requiring 25 municipalities in the Cape Fear River Basin to begin monthly monitoring for PFAS and 1,4-dioxane, another potentially cancer-causing chemical.

“The purpose of the new requirement is to identify which municipalities are receiving these pollutants at their wastewater treatment plants and to work with them to reduce the contaminants at their industrial source,” North Carolina Health News reported.

To read more about how municipalities are working to regulate PFAS contamination, visit Water Online’s Drinking Water Regulations And Legislation Solutions Center.

Image credit: "Riverside Park WRF Laboratory," Eric Shea © 2012, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/