Pennsylvania environmental board votes in favor of PFAS proposal
A Pennsylvania environmental board has advanced a measure to restrict the amount of PFAS permitted in drinking water.
PFAS are toxic chemicals commonly found in clothing and non-stick cookware like teflon. (Wallace McKelvey/PennLive)
Pennsylvania’s Environmental Quality Board on Thursday voted 15-3 in favor of a Department of Environmental Protection proposal to establish limits on two of the toxic class of chemicals known as PFAS. Often referred to as “forever chemicals,” because they don’t naturally break down in the environment, PFAS compounds are linked to serious health issues including some cancers.
Currently, there are no federal maximum contaminant levels (MCLs) for PFAS, shorthand for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, in public drinking water.
The Environmental Protection Agency does set a federal health advisory level for PFAS, but unlike MCLs, the advisory is non-enforceable. In June, the agency reduced the advisory level from 70 parts per trillion to almost zero parts per trillion, after announcing the compounds are more dangerous than previously thought.
EPA to designate ‘forever chemicals’ as hazardous substances
The Environmental Protection Agency said Friday it is designating some toxic industrial compounds used in cookware, carpets and firefighting foams as hazardous substances.
1 year ago
Pennsylvania’s proposal would restrict the PFAS compounds PFOA and PFOS to 14 parts per trillion and 18 parts per trillion respectively. That would require water companies and municipalities to regularly monitor water for PFAS, and treat the water if it exceeds the MCLs.
The proposal came after the DEP asked Drexel University to evaluate PFAS contamination in the state. The study concluded the EPA health advisory for PFAS was no longer protective of public health.
“It was critically needed by people who are currently drinking water contaminated with these highly toxic compounds,” said the Delaware Riverkeeper Network’s Tracy Carluccio. “Every day that people are drinking water that contains PFAS, it increases the levels of these toxins in their blood, and that increases their risk of developing a disease linked to PFOA and PFOS.”
For decades, PFAS chemicals have tainted the water, air, and soil in this region and across the country. These so-called “forever” chemicals are widely used in consumer products such as nonstick cookware, flame-retardant fabrics, and some food packaging, as well as in firefighting foam used at current and decommissioned military bases.
The contamination has had a significant impact on residents in areas such as Bucks and Montgomery counties in Pennsylvania, Monmouth County in New Jersey, and Dover and Blades in Delaware.
Delaware Valley experts, residents call ‘forever chemical’ health screening recommendations a ‘bold step’
For decades, PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) have tainted the water, air, and soil — in the Delaware Valley region and across the country.
1 year ago
The numerous health problems, including some cancers, linked to PFAS have led to lawsuits against companies that make the products, such as DuPont and its successor companies, and 3M. The consequences of exposure are long-lasting — the compounds can stay in the human bloodstream for years.
Carluccio and other environmental advocates have argued that while Pennsylvania’s proposal is a step in the right direction, it isn’t restrictive enough. They had called for lower MCLs, for more PFAS compounds to be regulated and for private wells to be protected. (Private wells are not regulated under the federal Clean Drinking Water Act, and states don’t have authority over them.)
Those who voted against the measure on Thursday argued that the state should wait for the EPA to implement federal MCLs. The agency is expected to propose federal restrictions for PFAS in drinking water in December. EPA last year also announced a roadmap to address PFAS.
Environmental advocates like Hope Gross of the Buxmont Coalition for Safer Water say states should act quickly because it could take several years for the EPA to implement federal MCLs.
“I’m grateful that Pennsylvania finally moved ahead with theirs, because we could be ahead of the game,” Gross said. We’ll be at least working on getting these levels lower now versus waiting maybe another year, maybe two years, for the federal government to set their MCLs.”
The measure now needs to be approved by the Independent Regulatory Review Commission, and the Attorney General’s office.
Delaware has proposed implementing its own MCLs, while New Jersey already restricts PFAS at 13 parts per trillion for PFOS and PFNA, and 14 parts per trillion for PFOA.
Get the WHYY app!
Stream WHYY-FM, read the top stories from WHYY News, and listen to the latest podcast from WHYY Digital Studios — anytime, anywhere.
WHYY is your source for fact-based, in-depth journalism and information. As a nonprofit organization, we rely on financial support from readers like you. Please give today.
Preserving Our Water: How we use our Delaware Watershed.
The project is funded by The William Penn Foundation.
‘The process is rolling’: Delaware takes 3rd look at procuring offshore wind power
A 2008 contract that would have made Delaware a pioneer in offshore wind evaporated. A 2018 study cited high costs, but a new law has the state pursuing the notion again.
2 weeks ago
New Jersey offshore wind opponents sue state and developer to block tax breaks
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy signed a law that allows one offshore wind developer — the Danish company Orsted — to keep tax credits it had agreed to pass on to ratepayers.
4 weeks ago
Pennsylvania sets drinking water standards on two ‘forever chemical’ PFAS compounds
Pennsylvania has joined a list of growing states setting drinking water standards for a toxic chemical known as PFAS. The EPA has yet to propose nationwide limits.
8 months ago