Read the full article by Gerald B. Silverman
“States fearing that federal inaction on chemical safety may harm their residents are jumping into the breach.
Faced with growing public pressure to address a class of persistent chemical contaminants found in drinking water and at waste sites, eight states are stepping up because they see the Environmental Protection Agency as dragging its feet.
They are driven by findings that the chemicals—perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS), and others like them—are pervasive across the country, including at military sites and near manufacturing plants.
Colorado, Minnesota, Michigan, New Jersey, New Mexico, Texas, Vermont, and Washington have all taken action on water or cleanup regulations for the class of toxic chemicals with multiple consumer and industry uses.
And 11 other states—Alabama, California, Illinois, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Montana, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin—are considering similar steps, according to an analysis by Bloomberg Environment.
But those responsible for cleaning up the contamination, like the military and some industrial facilities, caution that a patchwork of different state rules will complicate their efforts…
They are part of a class of about 3,500 chemical compounds known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).
The EPA set a nonenforceable health advisory in 2016 for PFOA and PFOS levels in drinking water at a combined 70 parts per trillion, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in June that exposure to even lower concentrations may pose health risks.
Former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt announced in May that PFOA and PFOS may eventually be classified as hazardous substances for waste site cleanups. An EPA drinking water official told a congressional panel Sept. 6 the agency will decide by the end of 2018 whether to initiate the multiyear process of developing drinking water standards called maximum contaminant levels, or MCLs…
Massachusetts: Interim guidance issued June 8 for five PFAS chemicals (PFOA, PFOS, PFNA, PFHpA, and PFHxS) recommends that pregnant women, nursing mothers, and infants not consume water containing the PFAS substances at levels above 70 ppt, individually or in combination.
New Hampshire: Since May 31, 2016, New Hampshire has used the EPA health advisory standard of 70 ppt as an enforceable standard for PFOA and PFOS found alone and combined, for drinking water, groundwater, and cleanups. The state is considering stricter state limits in drinking water than what the EPA recommends following the discovery in 2016 of PFOA contamination in the private drinking water wells of more than 500 families in southern New Hampshire.
New Jersey: The Department of Environmental Protection set a 13 ppt standard Sept. 4 for PFNA. State officials are reviewing New Jersey Drinking Water Quality Institute recommendations for a standard of 14 ppt for PFOA and 13 ppt for PFOS. The state aims to adopt the standards by the end of the year.
New York: The state has been considering drinking water limits for PFOA and PFOS for almost a year but has yet to issue standards.
Pennsylvania: The Department of Environmental Protection began evaluating in 2017 whether additional measures are needed to address PFAS compounds in drinking water in the state.
Rhode Island: The state sampled 35 public drinking water systems within a mile of suspected releases and found one system, serving 175 people, with PFOA and PFAS above the 70 ppt advisory level. Residents there are still using bottled water. The state still relies on the EPA’s 70 ppt health advisory level.
Vermont: The state has a health advisory of 20 ppt for any combination of PFOA, PFOS, PFHxS, PFHpA, and PFNA. About 570 private wells in southern Vermont near a Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics plant were tested in 2016, and 266 of them exceeded the 20 ppt limit. Vermont passed a law in June 2017, which is retroactive, requiring companies found responsible for contamination to pay for cleanups, monitoring, and to extend public drinking water to affected areas…
Michigan: The state imposed a drinking water limit for PFOA and PFOS in January, mirroring the EPA level of 70 ppt.
Minnesota: The state set an unenforceable health-based value of 35 ppt for PFOA and 27 ppt for PFOS in 2017 and is about to propose an enforceable limit for perfluorobutyrate and PFOA. Violations of health values for drinking water can prompt the state to compel responsible parties to mitigate or remediate contaminated aquifers under the Superfund program…
Wisconsin: The state asked its Department of Health Services to recommend health-based groundwater quality standards for a number of substances, including PFOA and PFOS, and expects a response this fall.
Alabama: The state is ‘working to develop appropriate testing protocols, health-based standards, proper messaging to the public, and to address other issues related to PFAS,’ a spokeswoman said. Eight of the state’s water systems showed levels of PFOA and PFOS that exceeded the EPA’s health advisory level of 70 ppt. The systems have ‘either changed water sources, installed treatment, or are in the process of installing treatment to bring the levels of PFOA and PFOS below the lifetime drinking water health advisory level.’ …
PFAS contamination has been found in at least 172 sites in 40 states, according to the Environmental Working Group [and Northeastern University’s SSEHRI], a Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group that tracks pollution and supports tougher standards. More than 1,500 drinking water systems serving 110 million people may be contaminated with PFOA or PFOS, it said in May.”