Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced a proposed National Primary Drinking Water Regulation to establish legally enforceable levels for six PFAS, or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, known to occur in drinking water. Specifically, EPA is proposing an enforceable Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) for PFOA and PFOS, at 4 parts per trillion (ppt), a level that can be reliably measured by most labs. The proposed rule would also regulate GenX chemicals, PFNA, PFHxS, and PFBS through the use of a Hazard Index calculation to determine if the combined levels of these PFAS pose a potential risk to human health. Once the proposed EPA rule becomes final, public water systems will have three years to comply with the regulation. More information on the EPA announcement and how to provide public comment is available here.
The North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality has been working with public water systems to prepare for the proposed regulation and assess PFAS levels in drinking water systems across the state. Under the Action Strategy for PFAS, DEQ is taking a whole-of-department approach to protect communities by identifying, reducing, and remediating PFAS pollution. DEQ is also utilizing federal funding under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to help address PFAS contamination, including funding designated specifically for small, rural, and underserved communities.
“North Carolina has been leading efforts to address forever chemicals in our drinking water and today’s EPA announcement provides additional federal support and a roadmap for the public water systems in our state,” said Secretary Elizabeth S. Biser. “Having clear direction on national drinking water standards supports DEQ’s work with public water systems to protect the people of North Carolina.”
In late 2022, DEQ performed three months of sampling at 50 municipal and county water systems (map) identified in the 2019 PFAST Network study with PFOA/PFOS detections above the minimum reporting level indicated by the 2022 EPA interim health advisories or GenX above 10 ppt. DEQ is actively working with the systems on next steps and providing technical assistance.
Some public water systems in North Carolina are currently monitoring for PFAS voluntarily. DEQ is also implementing plans to sample hundreds of smaller water systems that may not have that capability to better assess the levels of PFAS on a statewide basis. DEQ recommends that public water systems share their PFAS results with customers.
Beyond public water systems, DEQ has taken several actions to better identify PFAS sources and reduce emissions and discharges:
- Requiring PFAS information from new facilities and industries and developing permit conditions as appropriate throughout the state;
- Inventorying and prioritizing locations for additional assessment where these substances may have been manufactured, used, discharged or disposed;
- Adding permit conditions as appropriate to address PFAS air emissions, waste generation, or wastewater discharges and require disclosure of data and additional monitoring;
- Conducting groundwater testing and additional monitoring in areas with known or suspected PFAS contamination;
- Requiring all solid waste sanitary landfills to include PFAS analyses of all regular groundwater, surface water and leachate samples;
DEQ continues to gather data to support setting regulatory standards and to provide technical assistance to facilities to reduce future PFAS pollution.
If you have public water, contact your water provider to find out whether they have sampled for PFAS and what steps they are taking to address PFAS.
If you are concerned about the level of PFAS in your drinking water, whether you are on a private well or public water system, you may consider adding filtration to reduce the amount of PFAS you consume. The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services has developed a list of filtration options, from whole house or under sink systems to pitcher of fridge filters with information on their effectiveness. NC DHHS Filtration Options and Sampling Factsheet
Additional information on PFAS is available on the DEQ website.