Feb 24, 2020

U.S. EPA to Regulate PFAS in Drinking Water

The U.S. EPA will regulate per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS)

drinking water

The U.S. EPA announced it would regulate per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).

“Under President Trump’s leadership, EPA is following through on its commitment in the Action Plan to evaluate Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and Perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS),” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler in a statement.

Currently, the EPA only recommends that water contain no more than 70 parts per trillion (ppt) of PFAS. but it’s not mandatory, and many health advocates argue that number is too high. In the absence of EPA action, a number of states have passed laws requiring lower levels of PFAS for drinking water.

"Today’s decision shows that an avalanche of public pressure and overwhelming science is finally forcing EPA to act,” said Melanie Benesh of the Environmental Working Group (EWG).

The announcement kicks off a two-year period for the agency to determine what the new mandatory maximum contamination level should be, reported the Hill. After that, the EPA has another 18 months to finalize the drinking water requirement.

In actuality, a drinking water standard won’t be enacted for at least four more years. 

Municipal water suppliers are the most likely to caution against setting too aggressive of a drinking water standard because they would be tasked with covering the costs of monitoring for the substances or investing in the equipment needed to remove them, reported the Hill

"We haven't said there should or shouldn't be a number, a maximum contamination level. What we ask is that we make a sound decision,” said Steve Via with the American Water Works Association. “We’ve got a range of perspectives. We have folks that clearly have gross contamination, they need to address it, so they're looking to know what standard of care EPA and the regulatory community is interested in.”

The EPA will develop two drinking water standards, one which is based on health and another which accounts for the financial factors of compliance. Lawmakers were unable to agree on whether to force the EPA to set a drinking water standard, reported the Hill.

The agency is also asking for information including monitoring approaches to determine whether regulation is appropriate for other chemicals in the PFAS family, reported the Bloomberg Environment.

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