The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced on March 14 it is proposing the first-ever national drinking water standard for six PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) in the latest action under President Biden’s plan to combat PFAS pollution and EPA Administrator Michael Regan’s PFAS Strategic Roadmap.
This proposal builds on other efforts to combat PFAS, including the EPA’s proposal to designate two PFAS as CERCLA (Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act) hazardous substances; enhancing data on PFAS under the EPA’s National PFAS Testing Strategy and through nationwide sampling for 29 PFAS in public drinking water systems; using the EPA’s Clean Water Act permitting and regulatory programs to reduce PFAS pollution in the environment from industry; and initiating the distribution of $10 billion in funding to address emerging contaminants under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.
“Over the last 10 years, NGWA has been one of the nation’s strongest advocates for a national standard on PFAS limits in drinking water. For too long, communities across the country struggled with patchwork regulations and limited guidance on how to safely manage these chemicals, which impact the drinking water of more than 200 million Americans,” said NGWA CEO Terry S. Morse, CAE, CIC.
“We applaud the EPA on this historic action and look forward to hard work ahead of examining how this newly proposed standard can effectively provide clean and safe drinking water to all.”
The proposal, if finalized, would regulate PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid) and PFOS (perfluorooctane sulfonic acid) as individual contaminants, and will regulate four other PFAS—PFNA(perfluorononanoic acid), PFHxS (perfluorohexane sulfonate), PFBS (perfluorobutanesulfonic acid), and GenX chemicals—as a mixture.
- PFOA and PFOS: The EPA is proposing to regulate PFOA and PFOS at a level they can be reliably measured at 4 parts per trillion.
- PFNA, PFHxS, PFBS, and GenX chemicals: The EPA is also proposing a regulation to limit any mixture containing one or more of PFNA, PFHxS, PFBS, and/or GenX chemicals. For these PFAS, water systems would use an established approach called a hazard index calculation, defined in the proposed rule, to determine if the combined levels of these PFAS pose a potential risk.
If finalized, the proposed regulation will require public water systems to monitor for these chemicals. It will also require systems to notify the public and reduce PFAS contamination if levels exceed the proposed regulatory standards.
Residential household water well systems are not affected by proposed water standards.
“While there are proven technologies that reduce PFAS in households, public water systems, and private water wells, additional financial and technical support will be required from the federal government to meet the standard they proposed today,” said NGWA Director of Science and Technology Bill Alley, Ph.D. “This will be especially crucial for providing testing and treatment for private water wells and financial resources to small, rural groundwater-based systems.”
NGWA has long been an industry leader in providing PFAS research, education, and resources to the public and scientific communities. Learn more by visiting NGWA.org/PFAS, which is a complete resource center about the groundwater contaminants featuring a recently updated top-10 facts sheet, a position paper, and more.
Also found there is Groundwater and PFAS: State of Knowledge and Practice, which NGWA published in 2017 and is one of the first PFAS guidance documents to be released. The Association hosted its second conference last year in Westerville, Ohio, focused entirely on PFAS science and remediation.