This editorial letter originally appeared in WQP September 2020 as "Moving Forward"
While some things may feel at a standstill amid COVID-19 concerns, we keep moving forward. Businesses continue to adapt, communication methods—both personal and professional—continue to evolve, and regulations continue to develop. We forge a path forward.
Water access and quality issues have always been pivotal to tackle, but now, perhaps more than ever, they are absolutely vital to prioritize. Though COVID-19 often dominates news headlines recently—rightly so with the vast impact our economy and livelihoods are facing—some major strides in water quality protections and regulations have recently been enacted across the country, particularly regarding emerging contaminants.
In Michigan, the state has enacted new standards for seven per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in drinking water, including PFOS and PFOA. While the standards were approved earlier this year, they officially took effect Aug. 3, 2020. The new state standards on these seven “forever chemicals,” at 16 parts per trillon (ppt) for PFOS and 8 ppt for PFOA, are notably more strict than the U.S. EPA’s non-enforceable health advisory levels, reported The Detroit Free Press.
In New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the first drinking water standard in the nation for emerging contaminant 1,4-Dioxane, at a maximum contaminant level of 1 part per billion on July 30, 2020. The state also set standards for PFOA and PFOS at 10 ppt.
Regardless of your opinion of the necessity of these more rigorous standards, it is undeniable that more stringent standards on emerging contaminants will result in increasing costs for municipal water providers to upgrade existing technology to meet these needs. Monitoring and enforcement may become a challenge in locations where sheer volume of emerging contaminant pollution hinders remediation. In cases such as these, water solution providers must be prepared to step up and offer immediate solutions to long-term problems. Emerging contaminants are the tip of the iceberg. Speaking full circle, obstacles presented by remote work and an evolving economy are just the beginning. We, as an industry, are on the precipice of change and must be prepared to not only meet, but exceed expectations to conquer these developing challenges and aid our communities. The only path is forward.