Last Spring, we wrote to you about new and emerging per- and polyfluoroalkyl substance (PFAS) regulations in Massachusetts. This article provides an update for continued development and new proposed regulations across the US. New Hampshire, specifically, recently released proposed PFAS drinking water standards. A full report on their development of the standards is available on the NHDES PFAS webpage, here.
PFASs are a group of man-made chemicals that are resistant to heat, water, and oil, and traditionally used in consumer products and industrial applications such as food packaging, clothing, fire‐fighting foams, and upholstery.
It has been reported that exposure to PFOA and PFOS over certain levels can cause health problems in the liver, kidneys, immune system, and nervous system, and may also cause developmental and reproductive issues such as (low birth weight, accelerated puberty, skeletal changes). Research has suggested links to cancer, thyroid disease, and endocrine disruption.
Current and Proposed Regulation
No federal maximum contaminant level (MCL) has been established for PFAS chemicals in drinking water. However, the US EPA established a combined public health advisory level for PFOA and PFOS of 70 parts per trillion in drinking water in June of 2016. The third Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule (UCMR 3) monitored several PFASs in public water systems (results published in the July 2016 National Contaminant Occurrence Database). PFOA and PFOS were shown to occur in water systems and regulating them presents a meaningful opportunity for health risk reduction under the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA). The EPA had added both PFOA and PFOS to the Contaminant Candidate List 3 (CCL3) in 2009 and to the Contaminant Candidate List 4 (CCL4) in November of 2016 for regulatory action.
Many states have taken a stringent approach to PFAS in their drinking water. The table below presents a summary of how the EPA and these states are handling the various PFAS chemicals with similar effects to those by PFOS and PFOA.
USEPA and State Drinking Water Values for PFAS (parts per trillion; ppt)
|70 (Sum of both)|
DPH Drinking Water Action Levels
|70 (Sum of all five)|
DEP Drinking Water Guidelines
|70 (Sum of all five)|
DH Drinking Water Guidelines
NHDES Proposed Drinking Water Standards
|OR sum of both|
DEP/Drinking Water Institute Proposed MCLs
DH Drinking Water and Groundwater Standards
|20 (Sum of both)|
Source: Original table via MassDEP Office of Research and Standards, June 8, 2018; updates via NHDES press release, January 2, 2019.
Public water systems may be able to reduce PFAS chemical concentrations by closing contaminated wells or by blending water sources if allowed. Treatment processes that can remove PFAS chemicals from drinking water may include activated carbon, ion exchange, or high-pressure membrane systems (e.g., reverse osmosis). The more conventional water treatment technologies are not typically effective.
If you have questions about current or proposed guidelines for PFAS or want to learn more about the treatment of these chemicals, contact us today.