EPA releases proposed rule for PFAS contamination with levels far below Wisconsin’s current standard
The Environmental Protection Agency released its plans this week to limit toxic forever chemicals known as PFAS in drinking water.
The agency says it will save thousands of lives and prevent serious illnesses, including cancer.
The EPA’s plan calls for limiting six types of the thousands of PFAS chemicals.
PFAS are a group of manmade chemicals that are linked to a wide range of health issues like low birthweight and kidney cancer.
If approved, the EPA would require steps to remove the chemicals from public drinking water supplies if the PFOA and PFOS levels exceed 4 parts per trillion.
The EPA also proposed regulations for four other PFAS chemicals.
“Their rule is based upon the latest science and health information,” said John Robinson, co-chair of Wisconsin’s Green Fire’s Emerging Contaminants of Concern work group.
Wisconsin currently has a drinking water standard of 70 parts per trillion for PFOS and PFOA set by the Department of Natural Resources last year.
If this latest rule from the EPA goes into place, Wisconsin will need to update its regulations.
“It’s a maximum contaminant level which typically governs public water supply systems. They’ll be required to monitor for the PFAS, notify the public if the levels are exceeded and take action to reduce the level,” said Robinson.
The EPA rule would only protect public drinking water systems. It would not have an impact on private wells, like the ones in Stella that have tested positive for PFAS levels as high as 45,000 parts per trillion.
“Private wells are not typically protected by the maximum contaminant levels. It’s good to look at that as a recommendation and good guideline. But Wisconsin would need to develop separate groundwater standards,” said Robinson.
Robinson urges patience.
The rule-making process for the EPA is still in its early stages with public comment on the proposed rule before the EPA makes its final decision likely by the end of the year.
It will then to go the state to make updates to its regulatory process.
“The industry seems to be aware of the concerns over PFAS and looking at efforts to voluntarily remove it from their product stream. Hopefully at the end of the day we’ll have policies and practices that are more protective of the public,” said Robinson.
PFAS chemicals have been found in drinking water throughout the state including Rhinelander, Wausau, and more than 20 private wells in the Township of Stella.