News Feature | February 27, 2019

PFAS Contamination Issue Taken Up By Local Regulators

Peter Chawaga - editor

By Peter Chawaga

The presence of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in drinking water is creating concern among utilities, regulators, and consumers around the country. With little clear direction from federal lawmakers, some local agencies are stepping up to tackle the issue themselves.

In Pennsylvania, for instance, PFAS has been found at levels in drinking water that may endanger human health. This has prompted the local environmental agency to set stricter standards.

“The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection will work to set up its own drinking water standards for toxic chemicals popping up in drinking water across the state,” according to The Intelligencer.“The announcement comes on the heels of a news conference held by the Environmental Protection Agency in Philadelphia on Thursday, in which the agency kicked a decision on whether to regulate perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS), until the end of the year. While acting EPA administrator Andrew Wheeler said he had ‘every intention’ of developing a standard for the chemicals, the agency stopped short of promising it would do so.”

The U.S. EPA does have health advisories for PFOA and PFOS, established at 70 parts per trillion. However, many afflicted locations around the country don’t feel that this standard goes far enough.

“The New Jersey Drinking Water Quality Institute was asked by the state Department of Environmental Protection to evaluate a family of chemicals known as PFAS — starting with PFNA — when it was brought into the spotlight nearly 10 years ago after it was detected in drinking water and fish in Gloucester County,” per NJTV. “New Jersey became the first state to set a maximum contamination level for PFNA last year at 13 parts per trillion.”

Local agencies in Michigan and New York have taken similar measures, as has Vermont’s Agency of Natural Resources.

“The state Agency of Natural Resources, or ANR, proposed a maximum contaminant level of a combined 20 parts per trillion for five toxic per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, known as PFAS chemicals — PFOA, PFOS, PFHxS, PFHpA and PFNA,” Valley News reported. “Managers of public drinking water supplies would be required to test water and treat it if levels for those chemicals are above the limit.”

The problem also extends West, as New Mexico considers local action on PFAS without enforcement from the federal level.

Though it does appear the EPA is getting ready to issue some stricter regulations on PFAS, many local regulators clearly feel that they need to take matters into their own hands in the meantime.

To read more about rules around PFAS contamination, visit Water Online’s Drinking Water Regulations And Legislation Solutions Center.