Author: Daniel J. Harrison, Esq.
The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PADEP) recently proposed a new regulation that would set maximum contaminant levels for two types of toxic per-and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) —18 parts per trillion (ppt) for perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS) and 14 ppt for perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA).
The proposed standards follow Executive Order 2018-18 signed by Governor Tom Wolf in September 2018, which created Pennsylvania’s PFAS Action Team.
Gov. Wolf instructed the PFAS Action Team, a multi-agency group, to:
– Identify impacted natural resources;
– Create plans to assist state and local authorities and public water systems with delivering safe drinking water;
– Manage PFAS contamination;
– Develop and implement environmental response protocols for all positively identified sites; develop specialized site plans, engaging the public and other relevant stakeholders when appropriate;
– Reduce risks to drinking water and the environment from sources of PFAS;
– Identify PFAS uses that are most likely to pose a risk to human health and the environment;
– Develop recommendations and actions that can be taken to limit or control these sources of PFAS;
– Develop a clearinghouse of information on PFAS and establish a public information site;
– Explore avenues of funding for remediation efforts; and
– Engage academic institutions and experts in the field when necessary.
As a result, the PADEP began its investigation to determine the extent of any PFAS contamination inside the Commonwealth in 2019 and concluded that 493 public water systems are located within a half-mile of potential PFAS sources.
PADEP subsequently collected two rounds of selective sampling from public water supplies and released their results in March and June 2021, respectively. The results showed that about one-third of Pennsylvania water systems contain PFAS, including dozens of sites that showed levels of toxic PFOS and PFOA and levels of other types of PFAS that have not yet been widely studied.
Now, PADEP proposes regulations to set drinking water standards for at least PFOA and PFOS as numerous studies have established links between PFOA and PFOS exposure and a wide range of severe health effects, including increased risks of cancer, thyroid disease, high cholesterol, liver damage, kidney disease, low birth-weight babies, immune suppression, ulcerative colitis, and pregnancy-induced hypertension.
If adopted, these regulations would ensure Pennsylvanians have access to clean water and can be used to hold polluters accountable for discharging PFOA and PFOS throughout the Commonwealth. The comment period for these drinking water standards is currently open but will expire on April 25, 2022.
Comments may be submitted to the Environmental Quality Board through PADEP’s eComment system at http://www.ahs.dep.pa.gov/eComment.
Comments may also be submitted via e-mail at [email protected]. Each comment must include a subject heading of the proposed rulemaking and the name and address of the person submitting the comment. Written comments may be mailed to the Environmental Quality Board, P.O. Box 8477, Harrisburg, PA 17105-8477.