EPA proposes regulation establishing enforceable limits on PFAS in drinking water

EPA proposes regulation establishing enforceable limits on PFAS in drinking water
Published: Mar. 14, 2023 at 11:11 AM EDT
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - EPA administrator Michael S. Regan spoke on a new proposal to set limits on six PFAS chemicals during a news conference Tuesday morning at the UNCW.

Dubbed the National Primary Drinking Water Regulation by the EPA, it would set a legally enforceable maximum contaminant level for PFOA and PFOS at 4 parts per trillion. PFBS, PFNA, PFHxS and GenX would be regulated as a mixture with a “hazard index” approach to determine if their combined levels pose a risk to human health.

“We anticipate that when fully implemented, this rule will prevent thousands of deaths and reduce tens of thousands of serious PFAS-related illnesses,” said Regan.

The EPA plans to finalize the regulation by the end of 2023, and public water systems would have three years to comply with the regulation once it is implemented. This is unlike the drinking water advisories for various PFAS set by the EPA last year, which provided technical information without enforceable regulation.

“Today is a good step towards tackling our nation’s massive PFAS public health crisis by including commercially relevant PFAS like GenX,” said Emily Donovan, co-founder of Clean Cape Fear. “We now need every office within the EPA and all other federal agencies to use a whole of government approach to address PFAS as a class, stop all exposures at their source, make responsible parties pay for the clean-up, and give overexposed communities access to health monitoring.”

Still, there is an ongoing lawsuit from several local environmental groups against the EPA, saying the administration needs to do more to study the health impacts of forever chemicals.

“We’re trying to seek health studies, and we’re asking the EPA to require Chemours pay for those studies,” said Donovan. “And so, that lawsuit right now is being reviewed by a judge. The EPA has asked to dismiss the case, and so we are disappointed in that action.”

The proposal to regulate PFAS chemicals like GenX is welcome news to Wilmington Resident Abigail Herrmann, who is just 13 years old, but has survived cancer twice.

“When I was four I was diagnosed with kidney cancer,” said Herrmann. “And then I think it was last year or two years ago, I got skin cancer also which was a result from kidney cancer treatments. But, the kidney cancer is most likely from the water here because there’s no other reason the doctors could figure it out.”

She says knowing that water providers across the country will have to monitor PFAS levels is comforting.

“It makes me happier because that means less people probably get sick, less people have issues that could make like their life change in a big way.”

Informational webinars will be hosted by the EPA on March 16 and 29 about the National Primary Drinking Water Regulation, and a public hearing is set for May 4. You can learn how to submit comments and sign up for public hearings on the EPA website.