This fall, the U.S. EPA issued interim health advisories for PFOA and PFOS, dramatically lowering previous levels from 70 ppt, individually or combined, to 0.004 ppt for PFOA and 0.02 ppt for PFOS. This has left many drinking water professionals wondering how they arrived at such dramatically lower lifetime limits and how this is going to impact their operations. We answer the first question and provide insights into the second in our recent on-demand webinar.
Under the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA), EPA has proposed National Primary Drinking Water Regulations (NPDWR) for six PFAS: PFOA, PFOS, PFBS, PFNA, PFHxS, and GenX (HFPO-DA). These new limits will be the first-ever MCLs for PFAS applicable nationwide.
While PFOA and PFOS are a primary focus of the U.S. EPA’s regulatory efforts, they aren’t the only PFAS of concern. The agency also issued final health advisories for PFBS and GenX of 10 ppt and 2000 ppt, respectively. The 2021-2024 PFAS Strategic Roadmap also calls for increased research into the toxicity of other commonly used PFAS. An assessment was recently completed for PFBA, and assessments are planned for PFHxS, PFHxA, PFNA, and PFDA. The process can take years, but toxicity assessments are often a precursor for health advisories, which can, in turn, lead to regulatory efforts at the state and federal level.
Many states have issued their own MCLs, health advisories, and other limits for PFAS in drinking water. Currently, much of this rulemaking is aligned to USEPA’s outdated health advisory of 70 ppt for PFOA and PFOS combined. These interim health advisories were lowered in 2022 to 0.004 ppt and 0.02 ppt for PFOA and PFOS, respectively. The EPA also issued health advisories GenX and PFBS. Furthermore, once the NPDWR limits for PFOA, PFOS, PFBS, PFNA, PFHxS, and GenX (HFPO-DA) are finalized, these limits will supersede many state rules. States may still set their own limits, but they must be at or below NPDWR limits.
The EPA’s Fifth Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule (UCMR 5) requires all public water systems serving more than 3300 customers and a randomly selected group of 800 small systems to begin sampling in 2023 for 29 PFAS plus lithium. The data will be combined with data from other EPA programs and made publicly available through the EPA’s new PFAS Analytical Tools.
The EPA has two validated methods for analyzing PFAS in drinking water that can be used for compliance. In addition to being an approved UCMR 5 lab, Pace® maintains drinking water certifications in every state with a required lab-accreditation program.
PFAS can directly enter a water system through ground and surface water sources that contain PFAS. These sources, in turn, can become contaminated through a number of other routes such as wastewater, biosolids, landfill leachate, and more. Visit our individual matrices pages to learn more about how PFAS spreads throughout the environment and appropriate test methods to use for each matrix.
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