By Peter Chawaga
As consumers become increasingly concerned about per- and polyfluoroalkyl substance (PFAS) contamination in their source and drinking water, and federal regulators continue to delay implementing stricter limits, states are taking their own actions to curb the problem.
PFAS, also known as “forever chemicals,” have been tied to adverse health effects — including cancer and development effects in infants — following their consumption through drinking water. The compounds have found their way into source water as a result of chemical manufacturing and due to their presence in firefighting foams.
While the U.S. EPA maintains health advisories for prevalent PFAS, new states are now instituting stricter measures for the first time, including tighter limits on the contaminants in drinking water and wastewater monitoring requirements.
“Colorado has its first policy to regulate so-called ‘forever chemicals,’” CPR.org reported. “In an effort to control the problem, the Colorado Water Quality Control Division proposed rules to require wastewater treatment plants and industrial sites to monitor the chemicals. It also established the authority for the state to limit the chemicals in future wastewater permits.”
California is instituting similar requirements at the wastewater level. The state’s water board has issued an order that requires publicly owned treatment works (POTWs) with dry weather design flows of more than 1 MGD to test for PFAS and report results.
“Starting in October, POTWs must sample and analyze influent, effluent, and reverse osmosis concentrate/retentate for the listed PFAS quarterly for one year,” according to the order. “All treatment sampling and analysis and groundwater monitoring proposals and analysis must be uploaded to the Water Board’s GeoTracker system, and will be incorporated into the Board’s ongoing PFAS mapping project.”
State-based measures have also extended to holding the compound manufacturers financially responsible for PFAS contamination, and instituting stricter limits upon local drinking water treatment operations. For instance, Michigan has recently instituted new public drinking water limits.
“The enforceable rules, which set low limits on fluorochemicals like PFOS and PFOA and require regular testing, are expected to impact about 2,700 utilities, schools, hospitals and large businesses in Michigan that provide water to the public,” MLive reported. “[The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy] estimates Michigan water supplies that serve more than 25 people would collectively have to spend about $11 million installing treatment and $6.4 million to test for PFAS during the first year.”
It seems clear that more state-based measures will be taken before any stricter federal limits are instituted. And the burden for adhering to these measures will almost certainly fall on local wastewater and drinking water treatment plants.
To read more about how treatment operations address PFAS, visit Water Online’s PFAS Solutions Center.