For the first time in the history of the EPA, an all-encompassing action plan has been released to help local communities and states address PFAS contamination and protect the nation’s drinking water. What is a PFAS, you ask? PFAS stands for Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances. These man-made chemicals are harmful to the environment and the human body and can be found in everyday commercial household items, such as cleaning products, polishes and waxes, certain food packaging materials, and in production facilities or industries.
Such substances, when disposed improperly and discharged into the environment, can enter our drinking water and poison living organisms. Even though most PFAS are no longer used in products manufactured in the United States, they are still used internationally and can be brought into the country through carpets, leather and apparel, and rubbers and plastics.
This new plan describes the actions that the EPA is taking to prevent contamination, including:
- Moving forward to establishing a maximum contaminant level process outlined in the Safe Drinking Water Act. By the end of 2019, the EPA will propose a regulatory determination, which is the next step in establishing a maximum contaminant level.
- Cleaning up hazardous substances and materials and issuing groundwater cleanups for contaminated sites. This allows previously contaminated communities and state officials to address the issue and hold the responsible parties accountable.
- Enforcing tools to address PFAS exposure and assist states in enforcement activities.
- Monitoring nationwide drinking water under the next Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Program and considering PFAS chemicals to be listed in the Toxic Release Inventory that identifies each chemical’s origin.
- Developing new analytical methods so that PFAS can be detected in drinking water, soil and groundwater, which will improve the ability to monitor and assess risks.
- Creating a PFAS risk communication toolbox that includes materials that affected cities, states and organizations can use to communicate with the public.
The efforts put forth by the EPA will help increase understanding of PFAS contaminants, help with current clean up and assist with future contaminations. Tioga will be paying close attention as new standards become available to help protect our water sources. For more information, visit www.epa.gov/pfas.