EPA to Issue PFAS Drinking Water Health Advisories Wednesday

Bloomberg Law

The EPA will issue four PFAS health advisories for drinking water on Wednesday, the agency’s top water official said.

The agency will also propose a new lead and copper rule by the end of 2023, said Radhika Fox, assistant administrator for the Office of Water, speaking Monday at the American Water Works Association annual conference in San Antonio.

The PFAS advisories will be based on the best available science regarding the safe lifetime exposure to per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances for “a range of populations,” Fox said.

Fox said the advisories will include monitoring protocols for PFOA and PFOS—two of the most commonly studied PFAS—in drinking water.

The EPA’s current health advisory for PFOA and PFOS in drinking water, issued in 2016, is 70 parts per trillion. An earlier provisional health advisory in 2009 set the amounts at 400 parts per trillion for PFOA and 200 ppt for PFOS.

When asked by a water system administrator whether it’s true that the advisories for exposure to PFOA and PFOS will be set at the parts-per-quadrillion level that is beyond utilities’ ability to measure, Fox declined to confirm.

“As far as how we arrived at the information you will see later this week, we followed the science,” Fox said, responding to the question.

The EPA declined to comment and provide further details Monday. However, advisories were scheduled for this spring for two other PFAS—hexafluoropropylene oxide (HFPO) dimer acid and its ammonium salt, commonly referred to as “GenX chemicals,” and perfluorobutane sulfonic acid (PFBS), according to the EPA’s PFAS Strategic Roadmap.

The agency is on track to propose a rule for PFAS in drinking water by the end of the year, with a goal to finalize the rule by the end of 2023, said Jennifer McLain, director of the EPA’s Office of Ground Water and Drinking Water, speaking at the conference.

PFAS are often called “forever chemicals” because some require extraordinary means to break down once released into the environment, where they build up and get into people and wildlife.

Heart problems, weakened immune systems, and cancer are among the health problems associated with the two most studied compounds within the chemical family, PFOA, or perfluorooctanoic acid, and PFOS, perfluorooctanesulfonic acid, raising concerns about others.

Lead and Copper Rule

The EPA plans to finalize the Biden administration’s lead and copper rule by October 2024, McLain said.

The agency let the Trump administration’s version of the rule, which cut the percentage of lead pipes that need to be replaced annually, take effect at the end of 2021.

The EPA’s goal is to replace all lead service lines as quickly as possible, agency officials said last year. The EPA estimates that there are up to 10 million lead service lines needing replacement nationwide.

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