EPA limits PFAS chemicals in drinking water

Alabama Rivers Alliance applauds the finalization of new EPA limits on PFAS chemicals under the Safe Drinking Water Act. Limiting PFOA and PFOS in drinking water – two of the most-studied substances in the PFAS chemical class – is welcome news to communities throughout Alabama, the Southeast, and the United States who have had their health and their livelihoods threatened by these persistent and toxic “forever chemicals.” 

Likewise, a “hazard index” that limits acceptable levels of four other PFAS chemicals, PFNA, PFHxS, PFBS, and GenX, in drinking water is a welcome addition that acknowledges the uncertainty surrounding the cumulative health and environmental impacts of different PFAS chemicals. We are particularly encouraged that the EPA followed through on its original plan to set the maximum contaminant levels (MCLs) for PFOA and PFOS at 4 parts per trillion, the lowest level at which these chemicals can be reliably detected with current testing methods. By setting these drinking water limits at the strictest level, EPA has ensured that Alabamians can trust that their tap water will not contain dangerous levels of these toxic chemicals.

ARA sincerely hopes that the proposed rule will encourage the Alabama Department of Environmental Management to broaden protections against PFAS for Alabamians and our environment. While we recognize that it will require considerable investments in drinking water infrastructure to meet these standards over the next 5 years, we are hopeful that drinking water utilities, and federal and state governments will work together in order to fund the improvements necessary to meet these new standards.

Ultimately, the responsibility for PFAS pollution in our drinking water, groundwater, and environment lies with major chemical manufactures who profited from PFAS chemicals for years, often times with the knowledge that they were hazardous to the environment and to the health of their employees and consumers. Across our state, communities have already been impacted by these dangerous pollutants.  As drinking water utilities move forward with implementation of these new limits, we remain hopeful that policymakers will ensure that the polluters responsible for PFAS contamination are the ones who pay to clean it up.

Lastly, we encourage EPA to continue to fund research that improves methods for identifying these chemicals. EPA’s analysis acknowledges that PFAS are a threat to human health at levels far below what current science allows us to detect. In order to protect communities from this threat, we need testing that can reliably identify these chemicals at concentrations in the fractions of parts per trillion. As always, Alabama Rivers Alliance is focused on ensuring all Alabamians know that it is safe to drink the water that comes out of their tap. We look forward to continuing to work with EPA, ADEM, and our national partners on PFAS to expand protections for drinking water in Alabama and across the country.