Understanding the EPA’s Strategic Roadmap to Address PFAS Pollution
The concern about polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in drinking water and the environment has grown in recent years. These forever chemicals are the latest target of the EPA’s attention. Supported by funds made available in the 2021 Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, the agency has released a strategic roadmap for addressing these chemicals.
What are polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS)?
Chemical companies developed polyfluoroalkyl substances in the 1950s because of their repellent properties. Products with labels like stain-resistant, water-repellent, and non-stick typically contain PFAs. Consumers may also encounter the chemicals daily in food containers, cleaning products, and beauty supplies.
The Effects of PFAS Pollution
Environmentalists refer to polyfluoroalkyl substances as forever chemicals because they are extremely stable substances that don’t break down naturally. Once released into the environment, they will remain in the soil and groundwater. The chemicals can build up in a person’s blood supply if consumed. Most people have some level of PFAS in their bodies today.
The effects of PFAS on health and the environment aren’t entirely clear. Some studies suggest that high levels of PFAs may interfere with growth hormones, cause liver damage, and increase the risk of certain cancers.
The PFAS Strategic Roadmap
The PFAS map from the EPA falls into three parts:
- Better detection of PFAS levels
- Reducing the amount released
- Producing clear safety standards for PFAS pollution
The EPA hasn’t established safety standards for most PFAS, but they recognize tracking the substances. The agency recently announced that combustion ion chromatography technology has allowed them to measure the chemicals at the parts per billion level.
Because these are not naturally occurring chemicals, the best way to lower their levels is to prevent companies from discharging them. The EPA will use the resources of the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System to limit their release and hold offenders accountable.
There are many compounds in the PFAS family. Researchers have spent the most time with Perfluorooctanoic acid and Perfluorooctanesulfonic acid. They are developing standards for these two chemicals that aren’t only based on human health but also on how they might affect aquatic life. Continued study will bring standards for a broader range of PFAS.
How the PFAs Map Will Affect the Water Industry
Every municipality wants to have a clean water supply, and the new PFAS strategic roadmap will assist them in the effort. For many in the water industry, the focus on PFAS will lead to installing new monitoring equipment to track chemical levels.
Removing PFAS from water is a challenge because they don’t break down easily. Areas with elevated levels may need filtering technology such as reverse osmosis to clean the water supply.
SCADA and Water Quality
Supervisory control and data acquisition systems already play a role in many water facilities. SCADA technology takes real-time data from sensors and sends it to a central interface. As more facilities adopt PFAS detection technology, the system will send alerts about rising levels. Managers will also program the system for an automatic response, diverting the supply for additional treatments.
Experienced SCADA Design and Implementation
High Tide Technologies specializes in cloud-based SCADA systems for municipal water collection, distribution, and treatment facilities. Sending and receiving data through the cloud allows employees to monitor the system on a handheld device. SCADA from High Tide empowers intentional maintenance, faster response times, and efficient operation. Contact us today to learn more about the benefits of SCADA for your system.