The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released on June 15 four drinking water health advisories for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in the latest action under the PFAS Strategic Roadmap.
The EPA also announced that it is inviting states and territories to apply for $1 billion—the first of $5 billion in Bipartisan Infrastructure Law grant funding—to address PFAS and other emerging contaminants in drinking water, specifically in small or disadvantaged communities. These actions come on the heels of the EPA’s forthcoming proposed National Primary Drinking Water Regulation for PFOA and PFOS, which EPA plans to release in the fall of 2022.
The agency is releasing the PFAS health advisories after considering newly available science. The advisories indicate the level of drinking water contamination below which adverse health effects are not expected to occur.
The EPA’s lifetime health advisories identify levels to protect all people, including sensitive populations and life stages, from adverse health effects resulting from a lifetime of exposure to these PFAS in drinking water. The EPA’s lifetime health advisories also take into account other potential sources of exposure to these PFAS beyond drinking water (food, air, consumer products, etc.), which provides an additional layer of protection.
The EPA is issuing interim, updated drinking water health advisories for perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS) that replace those EPA issued in 2016. The updated advisory levels, which are based on new science and consider lifetime exposure, indicate that some negative health effects may occur with concentrations of PFOA or PFOS in water that are near zero and below the EPA’s ability to detect at this time. The lower the level of PFOA and PFOS, the lower the risk to public health.
For the first time, the EPA is issuing final health advisories for perfluorobutane sulfonic acid and its potassium salt (PFBS) and for hexafluoropropylene oxide (HFPO) dimer acid and its ammonium salt (“GenX” chemicals). In chemical and product manufacturing, GenX chemicals are considered a replacement for PFOA, and PFBS is considered a replacement for PFOS. The GenX chemicals and PFBS health advisory levels are well above the level of detection, based on risk analyses in recent scientific studies.
The agency’s new health advisories provide technical information that federal, state, and local agencies can use to inform actions to address PFAS in drinking water, including water quality monitoring, optimization of existing technologies that reduce PFAS, and strategies to reduce exposure to these substances. The EPA encourages states, tribes, territories, drinking water utilities, and community leaders that find PFAS in their drinking water to take steps to inform residents, undertake additional monitoring to assess the level, scope, and source of contamination, and examine steps to reduce exposure. Individuals concerned about levels of PFAS found in their drinking water should consider actions that may reduce exposure, including installing a home or point-of-use filter.
“For organizations like NGWA that have spent years advocating for national regulations on PFAS and PFOA chemicals, today’s announcement from the EPA is certainly welcome news,” says NGWA CEO Terry S. Morse, CAE, CIC. “Now it’s more important than ever that we let the science and data guide these actions because the more we learn about PFAS and PFOA, the more we seem to uncover about how serious and complex the problem really is.”
The EPA will be reaching out to states and territories with information on how to submit their letter of intent to participate in the new grant program. The EPA will also consult with tribes and Alaskan Native villages regarding the tribal set-aside for this grant program. This funding complements $3.4 billion in funding that is going through the Drinking Water State Revolving Funds (SRFs) and $3.2 billion through the Clean Water SRFs that can also be used to address PFAS in water this year.
NGWA is hosting a conference on the latest PFAS research, Fate of PFAS: From Groundwater to Tap Water, June 21-22, 2022 in Westerville, Ohio.
NGWA has long been an industry leader in providing PFAS research, education, and resources to the public and scientific communities. In 2017, NGWA published Groundwater and PFAS: State of Knowledge and Practice, which was one of the first PFAS guidance documents to be released. It can be found at NGWA.org/PFAS, which is a complete resource center about the groundwater contaminants featuring a FAQs document, a top-10 facts sheet, a homeowner checklist, and more.