Oct 03, 2019

PFAS Found in California’s Water Sources Impacts 7.5 Million Residents

PFAS found in California’s water sources pose risks to residents and calls EPA standards into question. 

Water pipe valves.

A report released Sept. 25 by the Environmental Working Group found per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in water sources for approximately 7.5 million people in California from 2013 to 2019. 

According to a review by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), 74 community water systems in California were contaminated. More than 40% of the systems had at least one sample with a level of total PFAS over 70 ppt, which is when the U.S. EPA issues drinking water advisories. PFAS are more commonly referred to as “forever chemicals” because they do not break down over time. These are the same chemicals used to make products like cookware and carpets water and stain resistant. 

Currently, California does not set maximum contaminant levels for PFAS, nor does it require water agencies to test for them. California’s Gov. Gavin Newsom has recently signed a law set to go into effect in 2020 allowing the state board to order public water systems to monitor for PFAS chemicals, and requiring community water systems to report detections to be mandatory, reported CNN. PFAS contamination is not an issue that is exclusive to California, however. A study by the CDC in 2007 found that PFAS chemicals could be detected in the blood of 98% of the U.S. population. EWG has produced an interactive map highlighting major areas of contamination, including public water systems and military bases, industrial plants and dumps, firefighter training sites and airports.

Nevertheless, the EPA does not see labeling all PFAS chemicals “for which we do not yet have adequate scientific data” as a feasible solution, said Administrator Andrew Wheeler. Instead, the agency is taking two steps to deliver on the PFAS Action Plan. The first step is a call to action encouraging the public to provide input on adding PFAS to the Toxics Release Inventory toxic chemical list. The second step is a proposal to ensure that certain long-chain PFAS chemicals cannot be imported into the U.S. without the agency’s review. 

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