The Latest EPA Guidelines for PFAS in Drinking Water
The Safe Water Drinking Act of 1974 tasked the Environmental Protection Agency with providing standards for potable water. Throughout its history, the agency has delivered several guidelines for monitoring and addressing PFAS in drinking water. The agency announced its latest advisories on June 15, 2022, focused on four PFAS chemicals. This announcement follows as part of the PFAS Strategic Roadmap introduced in October 2021.
What are PFAS chemicals?
PFAS chemicals are a group of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances used in consumer products since their development in the 1950s. At the time, manufacturers appreciated the ability of these compounds to resist stains, water, and oils. The practical applications of PFAS included non-stick cookware, stain-resistant fabrics, and firefighting foams.
Researchers soon realized that the stability of PFAS compounds was problematic. Once in the environment, they don’t break down, and these forever chemicals can be found in soil, air samples, and water supplies. The latest EPA water news looks at the dangers of PFAS water contamination.
The Dangers of PFAS in Water
Drinking water contamination is always a concern, but emerging research on PFAS compounds has been especially troubling. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are links between exposure to these chemicals and health concerns like liver damage, increased asthma risk, and several cancers. In 2018, the CDC also suggested a safe exposure limit that was significantly lower than the EPA guidelines.
Sources of PFAS Water Contamination
Manufacturers have used PFAS compounds for decades, leading to several sources of contamination. Industrial sites that release PFAS into local lakes or rivers are a significant concern, and part of the EPA roadmap involves holding them to greater accountability. Landfills can also leach PFAS into groundwater. Fire suppressing foams are used to fight fires and train personnel introduce these chemicals into the environment.
The New EPA Guidelines
The latest EPA water news addresses four PFAS compounds: PFOA, PFOS, PFBS, and HFPO.
The health advisory limit for perfluorooctanoic acid has dropped to 0.004 ppt. This concentration falls below what current technology can detect.
The safety level for perfluorooctane sulfonic acid has dropped to 0.02 ppt.
Perfluorobutane sulfonic acid is a chemical developed to replace PFOS in industrial applications. The new advisory establishes a safety level of 10 ppt.
Hexafluoropropylene oxide is seen as a safer substitute for PFOA. The new EPA advisory establishes 2,000 ppt as a standard for potable water.
Addressing PFAS in Drinking Water
The best strategy for addressing chemicals in water is to prevent their entrance. Part of the PFAS Roadmap includes finding and eliminating the sources of contamination. The government will hold companies that release PFAS into the environment to greater accountability.
The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law sets aside $5 billion for grants to allow disadvantaged communities to deal with PFAS contamination. They may use these funds for improved water testing and installing treatment technologies.
For individual households concerned about PFAS, the EPA suggests installing in-home treatment equipment such as activated charcoal filtering and ion exchange treatments. Before investing in the system, residents should test their water to see what types of PFAS are present and determine the best solution.
Concerns about Detecting PFAS in Water
Water distribution organizations have expressed concerns about the acceptable low levels for PFOA and PFOS in the EPA advisories. The new standards are both beneath what current technology can detect. While they appreciate the importance of PFAS regulation, they’re concerned that this new standard will create an undue burden. It’s challenging to address drinking water chemicals at undetectable concentrations.
The Role of SCADA in Monitoring Drinking Water Chemicals
As new safety standards for drinking water contamination emerge, supervisory control and data acquisition technology will play a significant role in meeting them. A SCADA system involves sensors that monitor every step of the water treatment process and provide real-time information about water pressure, flow rates, and quality. The system can also carry out automatic responses to changing contaminant levels. This system will help maintain consistent water quality with fewer disruptions.
Developing a Cloud-Based SCADA Solution
SCADA systems from High Tide Technologies improve the operations at municipal water collection, treatment, and distribution facilities. Personnel can access real-time data from any web-connected portable device using a cloud-based model. They can monitor changes as they happen and develop solutions efficiently. Contact us today to learn more about the benefits of cloud-based SCADA.