EPA Issues Two New Actions to Safeguard Drinking Water From PFAS

The Environmental Protection Agency is continuing its commitment to safeguard public health by working to make drinking water as clean as possible. In late February, the agency announced two additional actions to address per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in drinking water.

PFAS are a group of man-made chemicals that have been manufactured and used in various industries since the 1940s. Persistent in both the environment and the human body, these chemicals don’t break down and can build up over time. Therefore, evidence has revealed exposure to them can cause health issues.

In addition to drinking water, these chemicals can be found in a variety of places — i.e., food, commercial household products, workplace, and living organisms. When in drinking water, PFAS are typically localized and tied to a specific facility.

Here’s a look at the two new actions the EPA is taking to make drinking water as safe as possible.

Fifth Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule

At present, the Safe Water Drinking Act requires the EPA to issue a new list of unregulated contaminants to be monitored by public water systems every five years. However, the Biden-Harris Administration has proposed the Fifth Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule, which would require sample collection for 30 chemical contaminants from 2023 to 2025, analyzed by methods created by the EPA and consensus organizations.

This approach would give the EPA, states, and communities scientifically valid data on the national presence of these contaminants in drinking water. The new data would increase the EPA’s knowledge of the frequency certain PFAS are discovered in drinking water and at what levels.

Final Regulatory Determination for PFOA and PFOS

The EPA has reissued final regulatory determinations for the fourth Contaminant Candidate List. Two contaminants in drinking water will be regulated — perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) — and six will not — 1,1-dichloroethane, acetochlor, methyl bromide (bromomethane), metolachlor, nitrobenzene, and RDX.

Now that the final regulatory determination has been made, the EPA can start the national primary drinking water regulation development process for PFOA and PFOS. This will also highlight options the agency is considering to extend monitoring to include additional PFAS.

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