UPPER DELAWARE RIVER VALLEY — The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced on March 14 a proposed set of regulations for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances …
UPPER DELAWARE RIVER VALLEY — The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced on March 14 a proposed set of regulations for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).
PFAS chemicals have been used since the 1940s often because of their nonstick properties—PFAS appear in cookware—and in clothing and firefighting foam. They also have a range of negative impacts on health; according to an EPA fact sheet, they can increase the risks of developmental delays in children, reduce an immune system’s ability to fight infections, and interfere with a body’s natural hormones, among other negative health implications.
The proposed EPA regulations set a maximum contaminant level (MCL) for two types of PFAS—PFOA and PFOS—of four parts per trillion (ppt) for drinking water. This limits how much of the chemicals can be allowed; the EPA describes the four ppt limit as “a level [at which] they can be reliably measured.” They also set a zero ppt MCL goal—a non-enforceable limit indicating how much of a substance can be in drinking water without the occurrence of a known or anticipated negative health effect.
The proposed regulations also include a limit on a combination of four other PFAS chemicals—PFNA, PFHXs, PFBS and GenX chemicals—tied to a hazard index, as well as monitoring and treatment requirements for public water systems.
The EPA will hold a public hearing online on Thursday, May 4, and is soliciting public comment on the proposed regulations. It anticipates finalizing its regulations by the end of 2023. Visit here for more information.
“EPA expects that if fully implemented, the rule will prevent thousands of deaths and reduce tens of thousands of serious PFAS-attributable illnesses,” reads material on the EPA’s website.
The Delaware Riverkeeper Network (DRN), an advocacy organization working to protect the Delaware River, endorsed the EPA’s proposed regulations. “This action by EPA will finally begin the process to provide equal protection for all Americans from toxic exposure through drinking water to some of the worst and most prevalently found PFAS compounds,” said Tracy Carluccio, DRN deputy director.
The states on both sides of the Upper Delaware River have both addressed PFAS pollution.
Pennsylvania published on January 14 a final form rulemaking addressing PFOA and PFOS. The rulemaking sets a 14 ppt MCL for PFOA, and an 18 ppt MCL for PFOS. The DNR and coalition partners had previously advocated for a more restrictive limit on both types of PFAS, as well as the addition of more types of PFAS.
The New York State Department of Health (DOH) in 2020 set MCLs for PFOA and PFOS at 10 ppt each, as well as a one part per billion (ppb) MCL for the chemical 1,4-Dioxane. On March 15, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) released its own water quality guidance values for those chemicals. It set these values respective to human health at 6.7 ppt for PFOA, 2.7 ppt for PFOS and 0.35 ppb for 1,4-Dioxane; for aquatic life, it set different levels. The guidance is available at www.dec.ny.gov/press/127293.html.
The DEC guidance affects the amount of chemicals allowed in ambient waters and industrial discharge. “The new Guidance Values are below DOH’s MCLs for PFOA, PFOS, and 1,4-Dioxane, to provide an extra margin of safety against the potential build-up of these contaminants to levels approaching or exceeding the MCLs,” reads the DEC’s announcement.
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