NATIONAL: Today, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed enforceable drinking water standards for six per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) that will prevent tens of thousands of serious PFAS-attributable illnesses or deaths. PFAS are a group of man-made chemicals that have been linked to serious health problems, such as cancer, thyroid disease, liver damage, and immune system disorders.
The EPA is proposing to regulate 6 PFAS at the federal level–PFOA and PFOS as individual contaminants at 4 parts per trillion (ppt), and PFHXS, PFNA, PFBS, and HFPO-DA (commonly referred to as GenX Chemicals) together at a Hazardous Index of 1.0 (unitless).
EPA is also proposing health-based, non-enforceable Maximum Contaminant Level Goals (MCLGs) for these PFOA and PFOS at 0 ppt, and at 1 ppt for the PFAS mixture. MCLGs are the maximum level of a contaminant in drinking water where there are no known or anticipated negative health effects allowing for a margin of safety. The proposed rules will be subject to a 60-day public comment period.
Comprising over 30 community groups impacted by PFAS contamination from around the country, the National PFAS Contamination applauds the EPA’s announcement. NPCC Co-Facilitator Sandy Wynn Stelt said, “We appreciate the Biden administration and the EPA for the work that they have done and recognize this is the first step. We hope that the EPA will continue to follow the science to protect human health and the environment. This sends a very strong message to polluters that there is no safe level.”
The proposed rule would require public water systems to:
- Monitor for these PFAS
- Notify the public of the levels of these PFAS
- Reduce the levels of these PFAS in drinking water if they exceed the proposed standards
“This is a victory for us all, and especially environmental justice communities that have been disproportionately exposed to PFAS contamination,” said Dana Colihan, NPCC Co-Facilator and Slingshot Co-Executive Director. “We urge EPA to implement these recommendations as swiftly as possible.”
Responses from community members impacted by PFAS contamination around the country:
Andrea Amico of Testing for Pease in Portsmouth, NH: : “Almost 9 years ago, I learned my family was drinking highly contaminated water with PFAS. It devastated me and I knew more needed to be done to prevent others from being exposed to PFAS. The MCLs announcement from the EPA today is life changing and life saving and I’m deeply grateful for this bold and much needed action.”
Linda Robles of Mothers Safe Air Safe Water Force in Tucson, AZ: “Today’s news is very rewarding. We are overwhelmed by Radhika Fox’s strength, courage, and boldness in leadership to stand up for us, our children, and our grandchildren by regulating PFAS in our nation’s drinking water. As environmental justice advocates, we are poised to influence others by this step to advance environmental justice. We must continue to promote health equity, democracy and justice for all.“
Laurene Allen of Merrimack Citizens for Clean Water in Merrimack, NH: “This is an amazing and much awaited day. We have pushed for so long for this and the EPA has delivered a just and defendable action where PFAS levels in drinking water will no longer depend on your zip code. Our voices have truly been heard. This two pronged approach hastens the acknowledgement of exposure to the class and builds a foundation from which to move forward that we can all be proud of.
Emily Donovan of Clean Cape Fear in Wilmington, NC: “No one should ever wonder if the PFAS in their tap water will one day make them sick. We all deserve access to health-protective drinking water. It’s a basic human right. We applaud the Biden EPA for having the courage to do what multiple administrations could not. Today, prayers were answered.”
Loreen Hackett of PfoaProject NY in Hoosick Falls, NH: Having been dealing with PFAS since our water was found severely contaminated in 2014, and with all of our advocacy since, regulations at these lower levels certainly have been a long time coming and are most gratifying. We are pleased to have an EPA who listened, gave affected communities a seat at the table, which we’d never had before, and followed through in the necessity to protect the health of all families from these harmful chemicals.
Cheryl Cail of Idle No More SC in Myrtle Beach, SC: “Today the EPA has demonstrated that it will take the necessary steps to address the harms PFAS has caused to human health and our environment. We know this will be a long and arduous road ahead, as there have been many decades of environmental injustice for those who have not been heard. The shift to hear from all voices has had an incredible impact, and we will continue to support the Environmental Justice work of the EPA as we advocate for clean water for all and a healthier planet.”
Ayesha Khan of Nantucket PFAS Action in Nantucket, MA: “We owe it to our future generations to protect them from the harms of PFAS. The proposed EPA drinking water standard is a promising first step in safeguarding our communities from the wide-reaching impacts of PFAS contamination.”
Arnie Leriche of Wurtsmith Restoration Advisory Board in Oscoda, MI: “Today we also want to acknowledge the incredible work of Dr. Linda Birnbaum and Dr. Breyssee who drove the science to bring us to this moment. They fought the uphill battle against industry, federal polluting agencies and congressional naysayers for decades but still developed the MRLs which are the first step and scientific foundation for these 6 PFAS draft regulations.”
Joanne Stanton & Hope Gross of Buxmont Coalition for Safer Water in PA: “These ‘forever chemicals’ used for decades at Department of Defense sites across the country, continue to pollute our local waterways in Horsham and Warminster, Pennsylvania. They don’t break down, and as a result these toxic chemicals remain in the environment and people for decades. This historic proposed federal drinking water standard is the first step to keep our community safe.”
The National PFAS Contamination Coalition will continue to monitor EPA’s progress on developing the drinking water standards and work alongside impacted communities to provide input during the public comment period.