Sunday, January 15, 2023

Environmental Quality Board Publishes Final Reg. Setting PFOA/PFOS Drinking Water Standard And The First MCL Developed By DEP

On January 14, the Environmental Quality Board
published final regulations to protect Pennsylvanians’ drinking water from PFAS chemicals by setting new limits on two forms of per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) and the first drinking water maximum contaminant level developed by the DEP. 

The new rule sets MCLs for perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) – in order to protect the public from potential adverse health effects linked to exposure to PFOA and PFOS.

The request for Pennsylvania to set an MCL for PFAS chemicals came to the Environmental Quality Board in May 2017 from the Delaware RiverKeeper Network.  Read more here.

“Since Gov. Tom Wolf signed an executive order in 2018, DEP has been committed to protecting Pennsylvanians from the adverse impacts of PFAS. We are still learning more about these chemicals, and these new MCLs are a step in the right direction,” said DEP Acting Secretary Ramez Ziadeh.

The rule sets an MCL of 14 parts per trillion (ppt) for PFOA and an MCL of 18 ppt for PFOS. The MCLs are intended to protect against adverse developmental effects (including neurobehavioral and skeletal effects), and adverse immune system effects (including immune suppression). 

The rule also specifies requirements to ensure compliance with the MCLs, including monitoring and reporting, analytical requirements and approved treatment technologies.

PFAS are a class of synthetic chemicals used since the 1940s to make water-, heat-, and stain-resistant products such as cookware, carpets, clothing, furniture fabrics, paper packaging for food, and other resistant materials. 

These chemicals are persistent in the human body and throughout the environment. 

PFAS have been associated with adverse health effects but are classified by scientists as emerging contaminants because the risks they pose to human health and the environment are not completely understood.

The MCLs for PFOA and PFOS apply to all 3,117 community, nontransient noncommunity, bottled, vended, retail, and bulk public water systems. 

Of these, 1,905 are community water systems, serving a combined population of approximately 11.4 million residents; another 1,096 are nontransient noncommunity water systems (businesses, schools, and healthcare facilities) serving approximately 507,000 people. 

DEP estimates the cost of complying with this new MCL will be $121.5 million annually-- $115.3 million for annual treatment capital and operation and maintenance costs and $6.2 million in annual performance monitoring costs.  Read more here.

In June, 2021, DEP released final sampling results collected from public water systems which do not indicate widespread PFAS contamination in those systems.  Read more here.

In March 2021, the USGS Pennsylvania Water Science Center, in cooperation with DEP, released data from a 2019 project that sampled surface waters for PFAS substances at 178 DEP Water Quality Network station locations.

The highest concentrations of PFAS were found in known PFAS contamination areas in the Neshaminy Creek in Bucks County and downstream of the former Willow Grove Naval Air Station.  Read more here.

In November 2022, the Department of Health issued a medical advisory to doctors and health providers about the threats posed to public health by PFAS compounds.  Read more here.

The Environmental Quality Board also adopted soil and water cleanup standards for certain other chemicals in the PFAS family of compounds in November, 2021 under the Act 2 Land Recycling Program.

Presentations at the PA League of Women Voters and University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health Shale Gas & Public Health Conference and the Environmental Health News documented PFAS use and contamination of waste from oil and gas development in Pennsylvania and other states.

It is not clear whether DEP has requested oil and gas companies to sample for PFAS compounds during their cleanup of frequent spills at oil and gas sites under the Land Recycling Program.

Click Here for all the recommendations made in the PFAS Action Team Report commissioned by Gov. Wolf.

More information on Pennsylvania’s efforts to address PFAS can be found on DEP’s PFAS In Pennsylvania webpage.


-- WHYY - Susan Phillips/Zoe Read: PA Sets Drinking Water Standards For Two PFAS ‘Forever Chemical’ Compounds

-- PA Environmental Health Project: PA Dept. Of Health Issues Medical Advisory On PFAS Exposure 

-- WHYY: Bucks, Montgomery County Residents Learn More About Their Exposure To Toxic Chemicals In PFAS Study

-- Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper Files Citizen Suit Against York County Landfill For Federal Clean Water Act Violations, Including PFAS Contamination  [PaEN]

-- York Daily Record: Lawsuit Filed Alleging ‘Dangerous’ Levels Of PFAS ‘Forever Chemicals’ In York County Creek

[Posted: January 15, 2023]  PA Environment Digest

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