May 08, 2019

New Water Cleanup Proposal

A new U.S. EPA proposal aims to clarify federal cleanup standards to address groundwater & drinking water contamination

A new U.S. EPA proposal aims to clarify federal cleanup standards to address groundwater & drinking water contamination

A U.S. EPA proposal aims to clarify state and federal cleanup standards for groundwater and drinking water contaminated by chemicals, including those used in the military’s firefighting foams. According to Military Times, the Pentagon is on board with this proposal.

The military has used firefighting foams that contained perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) chemicals for decades. These substances also can be found in everyday household products, most notably teflon cookware, and have been linked to cancers and other health problems.

However, the Environmental Working Group said those standards are “woefully inadequate.” The advocacy group released its updated, interactive map which showed PFAS contamination at 610 sites in 43 states. Of those locations, 117 are military sites, including 77 military airports. According to Military Times, service members and families can click on different military locations to find the levels of contamination.

The proposal does not lower the cleanup standards, but rather aligns with the EPA’s 2016 health advisory, which recommended water sources contain no more than 70 parts per trillion (ppt) of PFAS chemicals.

The two most well-known chemicals, PFOA and PFOS, are two of the hundreds of PFAS chemicals currently in use. The proposal would set a rate of 40 ppt, which is the level where no adverse effects are expected, according to Military Times.

Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del. said, in a March letter to the EPA, that the DoD, NASA and the Small Business Administration had pushed for increasing the standard to 380 ppt for a clean up standard. This would have allowed higher exposure to the compounds in water sources.

“Such levels would, among other consequences, subject fewer sites that were contaminated through the military’s use of PFOA/PFOS from having to be remediated in the first place,” Carper told Military Times.

DoD spokeswoman Heather Babb said the DoD supports the trigger level for investigation and supports the initial cleanup goal contained in EPA’s draft interim recommendations.

“EPA’s draft provides helpful guidance for a consistent approach to PFOA and/or PFOS groundwater cleanups,” Babb said.