Read the full article by Adam Wagner (News & Record)

“The nation’s top environmental regulator is calling for stricter laws to prevent companies from contaminating drinking water with chemicals that haven’t yet been regulated.

‘We have to be very realistic about the fact that we have to change the law in this country,’ Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael Regan recently said during a roundtable in Maysville, a town in Jones County. ‘The laws of this country allow for chemical compounds to be put out in the atmosphere and in our water without having to prove that they are not harmful.’

Regan was visiting to announce that the EPA is making $2 billion in grant funds available to help water treatment systems with fewer than 10,000 customers remove so-called ‘forever chemicals’ from their drinking water supplies. Before President Joe Biden appointed Regan to the EPA, he served as secretary of the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality, where he grappled with decades of contamination in the Cape Fear River…

…But the same qualities that make PFAS valuable also is what causes them to be dangerous. Some of the chemicals have been linked with decreased vaccine response in children, higher cholesterol levels and risk of kidney and testicular cancer, among other health effects.

The EPA is also touting that national regulations for drinking water is ‘undergoing interagency review’ and will be released within weeks. Those regulations would set drinking water standards for public water systems.

A 2019 sample of Maysville’s water contained a combination of PFOA and PFOS of 103 parts per trillion, according to the N.C. Policy Collaboratory. The EPA previously had a lifetime health advisory for total PFOA and PFOS of 70 parts per trillion, meaning exposure above that level over a lifetime would be expected to have health impacts.

Last year, the EPA lowered its interim health advisory levels to 0.004 ppt for PFOA and 0.02 ppt for PFOS, effectively declaring that any detection of the chemicals is unsafe.

Lee Ferguson, a Duke University environmental and analytical chemist, said that he first visited Maysville in 2019, when he personally took the sample that would test positive for high levels of PFAS. Researchers were surprised by the findings, Ferguson said, and Maysville quickly moved to stop drawing water from its wells, instead purchasing supplies from Jones County.

The town pumps about 70,000 gallons of fresh water each day, providing it to about 450 customers. If the town tried to pay for upgrades by itself, officials said, each customer would pay more than $2,500.

‘We just can’t fund a $1.5 million project,’ said Schumata Brown, the town’s manager.

Brown was referencing a new granular activated carbon and ion exchange system the town is building to treat PFAS in its well water. Town officials hope the system will be online this summer.

To pay for the project, Maysville sought and received a $500,000 grant from the state and another $500,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. But inflation has pushed costs up, and now Brown is looking for another way to fund nearly $500,000 in additional expenses.”…