EPA Issues New Standard to Combat PFAS Pollution in Drinking Water, ACC Responds

April 10, 2024
According to the American Chemistry Council, the new rule ignores science, undercuts other water priorities and could cost almost $4 billion annually.

On April 10, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued the first-ever national, legally enforceable drinking water standard to protect communities from exposure to harmful per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), also known as ‘forever chemicals.’ Exposure to PFAS has been linked to deadly cancers, impacts to the liver and heart, and immune and developmental damage to infants and children. According to the EPA, the final rule will reduce PFAS exposure for approximately 100 million people, prevent thousands of deaths, and reduce tens of thousands of serious illnesses. 

The rule sets limits for five individual PFAS: PFOA, PFOS, PFNA, PFHxS, and HFPO-DA (also known as “GenX Chemicals”). The rule also sets a limit for mixtures of any two or more of four PFAS: PFNA, PFHxS, PFBS, and “GenX chemicals.” 

The EPA estimates that between about 6% and 10% of the 66,000 public drinking water systems subject to this rule may have to take action to reduce PFAS to meet these new standards. All public water systems have three years to complete their initial monitoring for these chemicals. They must inform the public of the level of PFAS measured in their drinking water. Where PFAS is found at levels that exceed these standards, systems must implement solutions to reduce PFAS in their drinking water within five years.

In response to the new standard, the American Chemistry Council (ACC) issued the following statement:

“We share the goal of protecting the health, well-being, and safety of Americans across the country. That includes access to safe and reliable drinking water for all. With scarce resources and other water priorities, we need to thoughtfully follow sound science.

“Unfortunately, there are serious concerns with the underlying science used to develop these Maximum Contaminant Levels (MCLs). These concerns have been validated by peer-reviewed research that also calls into question the basis for EPA’s overly conservative approach to assessing one of the health endpoints. Even EPA’s own Science Advisory Board severely criticized much of the underlying science behind the proposed standards.

“Furthermore, around the country, local governments, water agencies, and concerned organizations have commented on the proposal and raised many of the same concerns presented by ACC. The American Water Works Association has also found that this will cost almost $4 billion annually – several times more than what EPA estimated. These new regulations also fail to accurately assess the benefits to local communities and don’t take into account other higher-priority water and infrastructure issues for local water systems.

“Since this proposal was first announced, new real-world data has become available through national monitoring that confirms the rationale for this proposal is based on inaccurate and out-of-date information. Failure to incorporate this data into the final rule means that the number of small water systems that will be impacted by the new standard is three times higher than EPA estimated, forcing them to divert critical resources away from other higher-priority drinking water needs.

“We strongly support the establishment of a science-based drinking water standard, but this rushed, unscientific approach is unacceptable when it comes to an issue as important as access to safe drinking water. We strongly oppose this rule and will be working with the broad range of concerned stakeholders to determine next steps.”

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