The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has proposed its first-ever national drinking water standard for six cancer-causing chemicals known as polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).
PFAS, often referred to as “forever chemicals,” are human-made and have been found in water, air, and food, causing tens of thousands of illnesses across the country. Under the proposed standard, public water systems will need to monitor six PFAS chemicals and inform the public if PFAS levels in the drinking water supply exceed the proposed standards. Furthermore, they must take necessary action to reduce PFAS levels. Chemical companies use PFAS to make products such as paper and pans stain-resistant, water-repellent, and grease-proof. In addition to that, PFAS is also utilized in industrial processes and discharged into waterways.
EPA Administrator Michael Regan said the move would “establish a national standard for PFAS in drinking water is informed by the best available science, and would help provide states with the guidance they need to make decisions that best protect their communities.” The proposal marks the first time in over two decades that the Safe Drinking Water Act has been updated to include a new chemical in the drinking water standards.
Through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the Biden administration has allocated $10 billion to aid communities in reducing PFAS and other contaminants. However, environmental groups have said that it is up to retailers and chemical companies to make a difference.
West Virginia Republican Senator Shelley Moore Capito, who has been pressing the EPA to address PFAS for years, welcomed the announcement saying, “I’m looking forward to hearing from those who will be impacted by this announcement, including local water systems and ratepayers across the country, on how we can provide assistance for implementation.”