The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection announced that the Environmental Quality Board (EQB) approved its proposed rule to set maximum contaminant levels (MCL) of two forms of per and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) to be protective of adverse developmental and immune system effects. The board approved the rulemaking with a vote of 17 to 2.
“This rulemaking not only protects our environment from elevated levels of contamination and pollution, but also protects the public health of Pennsylvanians,” said DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell.
The proposed rule will set stricter limits compared to the EPA’s Health Advisory Level (HAL) for perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) from the current HAL of 70 parts per trillion (ppt) to 14 ppt for PFOA, and 18 ppt for PFOS. The proposed MCLs are based on various factors including health effects (as determined by Drexel University’s PFAS Advisory Group), occurrence data (generated under DEP’s PFAS Sampling Plan), technical limitations, treatability/available treatment technologies, and costs and benefits.
MCL compliance provisions are also included in the rule including monitoring and reporting requirements, analytical methods, acceptable treatment technologies, and public notification.
The rule applies to all 3,117 community, nontransient, noncommunity, and bottled, vended retail, and bulk water systems.
PFAS are a class of synthetic chemicals used since the 1940s to make water, heat, and stain resistant products such as cookware, carpets, clothing, furniture fabrics, paper packaging for food, and other resistant materials. These chemicals are persistent in the human body and throughout the environment. PFAS are known to cause adverse health effects, but are classified by scientists as emerging chemicals because the risks they pose to human health and the environment are not completely understood.
Pennsylvania state authorities first became aware of PFAS in 2013 when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) included PFOS and PFOA in its Third Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule (UCMR) for drinking water. The UCMR is a federal regulation that is updated every five years to include new contaminants that public water systems must monitor if they serve more than 10,000 customers.
While EPA’s process of setting national standards of PFOA and POFS will take several years to complete, DEP is moving forward with more protective standards to protect public health through this rulemaking.