What are PFAS?
PFAS are manufactured chemicals that have been used in industry and consumer products worldwide since the 1940s. The most widely used are perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS). PFAS are not naturally found in drinking water, but are widely used in many consumer goods.
They have been used in non-stick cookware, water-repellent clothing, paper packaging for food, stain resistant fabrics and carpets, personal care products, some firefighting foams, and products that resist grease, water, and oil.
How does PFAS enter our waterways?
During production and use, PFAS can migrate into the soil, water, and air. Most PFAS (including PFOA and PFOS) do not breakdown, so they remain in the environment. According to EPA’s analysis, 20% of an individual’s exposure comes from drinking water. The remaining 80 percent of exposure comes from consumer goods.
Current EPA Proposed Rule
The Environmental Protection Agency proposed a national primary drinking water rule for six types of PFAS on March 14, 2023.
EPA’s health advisory level is the minimum concentration of a compound which may present health risks to an individual over a lifetime of exposure (70 years). Health advisories look at lifetime exposure and consider other sources of PFAS exposure, such as consumer products.
EPA has proposed to set standards for PFOA and PFOS in drinking water at a level of 4 parts per trillion (ppt). A part per trillion is a measurement of the quantity of a substance in the air, water or soil.
For perspective, one part per trillion in water is equivalent to one drop of water in an Olympic size pool, or one second in 32,800 years.
EPA’s goal is to set the regulatory standard at the lowest levels to protect public health considering feasibility and affordability. The agency expects to finalize the rule by late 2023 or early 2024. The proposed PFAS National Primary Drinking Water Rule does not require any actions until it is finalized. Once the rule is final, public water utilities across the U.S. will have three years to implement any standards to comply with the regulation.
Plans for Henry County Water Authority
Henry County Water Authority has been proactively sampling our water, and will continue to submit data quarterly to EPA as they research and finalize this rule. Once we have more information from EPA, we will do all that is required to continue to provide safe drinking water for the residents of Henry County. To date, the low levels of PFAS that have been detected are not a violation and there has been no detection of PFOS or PFOA. We will provide all the help that is needed to EPA as they are trying to fully understand the questions about PFAS and make informed decisions.
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