On April 17, 2024

EPA finalizes first-ever national drinking water standard

$1 billion aimed at removing harmful PFAS from drinking water

On April 10, the Biden-Harris Administration issued the first-ever national, legally enforceable drinking water standard to protect communities from exposure to harmful per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), also known as ‘forever chemicals.’ Exposure to PFAS has been linked to deadly cancers, impacts to the liver and heart, and immune and developmental damage to infants and children. This final rule represents the most significant step to protect public health under EPA’s PFAS Strategic Roadmap. The final rule will reduce PFAS exposure for approximately 100 million people, prevent thousands of deaths, and reduce tens of thousands of serious illnesses.                                                        

Through President Biden’s Investing in America agenda, EPA is also making unprecedented funding available to help ensure that all people have clean and safe water. EPA is announced nearly $1 billion in newly available funding through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to help states and territories implement PFAS testing and treatment at public water systems and to help owners of private wells address PFAS contamination. This is part of a $9 billion investment through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to help communities with drinking water impacted by PFAS and other emerging contaminants — the largest-ever investment in tackling PFAS pollution. An additional $12 billion is available through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law for general drinking water improvements, including addressing emerging contaminants like PFAS.

“Drinking water contaminated with PFAS has plagued communities across this country for too long,” said EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan. “That is why President Biden has made tackling PFAS a top priority, investing historic resources to address these harmful chemicals and protect communities nationwide. Our PFAS Strategic Roadmap marshals the full breadth of EPA’s authority and resources to protect people from these harmful forever chemicals.”  

Deputy Assistant to the President for the Cancer Moonshot Dr. Danielle Carnival added: “The reductions in exposure to toxic substances delivered by EPA’s standards will further the Biden Cancer Moonshot goal of reducing the cancer death rate by at least half by 2047 and preventing more than four million cancer deaths — and stopping cancer before it starts by protecting communities from known risks associated with exposure to PFAS and other contaminants, including kidney and testicular cancers, and more.”

EPA is taking a signature step to protect public health by establishing legally enforceable levels for several PFAS known to occur individually and as mixtures in drinking water. This rule sets limits for five individual PFAS: PFOA, PFOS, PFNA, PFHxS, and HFPO-DA (also known as “GenX Chemicals”). The rule also sets a limit for mixtures of any two or more of four PFAS: PFNA, PFHxS, PFBS, and “GenX chemicals.”

EPA estimates that between about 6% and 10% of the 66,000 public drinking water systems subject to this rule may have to take action to reduce PFAS to meet these new standards. All public water systems have three years to complete their initial monitoring for these chemicals. They must inform the public of the level of PFAS measured in their drinking water. Where PFAS is found at levels that exceed these standards, systems must implement solutions to reduce PFAS in their drinking water within five years.

The new limits in this rule are achievable using a range of available technologies and approaches including granular activated carbon, reverse osmosis, and ion exchange systems. Drinking water systems will have flexibility to determine the best solution for their community.

“For decades, the American people have been exposed to the family of incredibly toxic ‘forever chemicals’ known as PFAS with no protection from their government. Those chemicals now contaminate virtually all Americans from birth. That’s because for generations, PFAS chemicals slid off of every federal environmental law like a fried egg off a Teflon pan — until Joe Biden came along,” said Environmental Working Group President and Co-Founder Ken Cook. “We commend EPA Administrator Michael Regan for his tireless leadership to make this decision a reality, and CEQ Chair Brenda Mallory for making sure PFAS is tackled with the ‘whole of government’ approach President Biden promised. There is much work yet to be done to end PFAS pollution. The fact that the EPA has adopted the very strong policy announced today should give everyone confidence that the Biden administration will stay the course and keep the president’s promises, until the American people are protected, at long last, from the scourge of PFAS pollution.”

Final PFAS drinking water standards:

For PFOA and PFOS, EPA is setting a Maximum Contaminant Level Goal (MCLG), a non-enforceable goal, at zero. This reflects the latest science showing that there is no level of exposure to these contaminants without risk of health impacts, like cancers.

EPA is setting enforceable Maximum Contaminant Levels (MCLs) at 4.0 parts per trillion for PFOA and PFOS. This standard will reduce exposure from these PFAS in our drinking water to the lowest levels that are feasible for effective implementation.

For PFNA, PFHxS, and “GenX Chemicals,” EPA is setting the MCLGs and MCLs at 10 parts per trillion.

Because PFAS can often be found together in mixtures, and research shows these mixtures may have combined health impacts, EPA is also setting a limit for any mixture of two or more of the following PFAS: PFNA, PFHxS, PFBS, and “GenX Chemicals.”

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