Thursday, May 18, 2017

Delaware Riverkeeper Petitions EQB For Drinking Water Standard For Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA)

Delaware Riverkeeper Network submitted a rulemaking petition to the Environmental Quality Board on May 8 requesting the Department of Environmental Protection set a statewide maximum contaminant level (MCL) for Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA).
The petition is now being reviewed by DEP to determine if it meets the EQB’s petition policy.  If the petition does meet the policy, DEP will make a recommendation to the EQB on whether to accept the petition for study at an upcoming Board meeting.
Based on the highest value scientific research and the most recent findings of water quality experts, Delaware Riverkeeper Network requested Pennsylvania take immediate action to establish a MCL between 1 and 6 ppt as the mandatory standard that cannot be exceeded in drinking water throughout the entire Commonwealth.  
PFOA, a highly toxic perfluorinated compound (PFC), is not currently regulated at the federal or state level, but is widely distributed in the environment.
PFOA is linked to several diseases and adverse health impacts including cancer, is persistent in the environment and builds up in people’s blood when ingested even in small amounts, and has been found in several locations in Pennsylvania.  
Water system sampling from 2013 to 2015 by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency revealed the presence of PFOA and other PFCs in drinking water across the nation, setting off alarm bells where concentrations were high.  
Levels of PFOA and Perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) - another toxic PFC - found in public wells in Bucks and Montgomery Counties were among the ten highest sampling results in the nation.
Sampling done in Warminster, Warrington and Horsham townships reported that the groundwater that feeds public and private wells for at least 70,000 people was found to be among the worst in the nation, most all in the vicinity of the former Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base at Willow Grove, the current Horsham Air Guard Station in Horsham and the site of the former Naval Air Warfare Center in Warminster.  
As a result of the use of firefighting foams at these military facilities in Bucks and Montgomery Counties, people have been exposed for many years to dangerous concentrations of PFOA in their drinking water.  
PFOA has also been found in other locations in Pennsylvania and, with expanded water testing, is likely to be found in many more.
“Immediate action must be taken by Pennsylvania to set a drinking water standard that will mandate the removal of PFOA from every water system where it is found. The EPA health advisory level does not provide the protection people need because it allows PFOA to remain in the water at dangerous concentrations. The military and PADEP are using the EPA’s level as a trigger for action, which means that people are still being exposed through their drinking water to an elevated risk of developing a disease linked to this toxic compound. Delaware Riverkeeper Network has filed this petition to spur PADEP to address this water crisis to protect public health, as required by the Pennsylvania Safe Drinking Water Act and our Constitution’s Environmental Rights Amendment,” said Tracy Carluccio, Deputy Director, Delaware Riverkeeper Network.
As outlined in the Petition, some municipalities want all traces of PFOA removed from their water and are funding systems or buying new water sources to meet that goal. Some are relying on the military to replace contaminated wells and install filtration systems to reduce PFOA to the EPA health advisory level (HAL).
Other individual well owners are shouldering  the cost of installing treatment themselves, and many people in the Commonwealth don’t even know if they are drinking contaminated water because their water systems are not being tested for PFCs.
This scattered approach is not fair and not an acceptable solution, according to the Delaware Riverkeeper.  
Adoption of a MCL for PFOA will require regular sampling for PFOA in Pennsylvania water systems, removal of the toxic compound, uniformly consistent protection policies, and will help to locate the pollution so it can be cleaned up.
A copy of the petition is available online.
[Note: DEP has never set its own drinking water MCLs, but rather adopts those put in place by the federal Safe Drinking Water Program.  The reason is simple, the breadth and depth of the human health and environmental studies required to study a chemical and adopt an MCL cost millions of dollars and years to complete to be scientifically credible.  DEP is now struggling to meet its basic, minimum Safe Drinking Water Program inspection and other requirements.]

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