PFAS in California’s Water Supply
Testing of California’s public water supply wells reveals that 60 percent of them contain the “forever” chemicals, perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs). The concentrations of these substances were higher at airports than landfills and public supply wells. One million parts per trillion were detected at airports, while landfills had 10,000 parts per trillion and public wells had 100 parts per trillion. EPA has established a health advisory level at 70 parts per trillion for the combined amounts of PFOA and PFOS.
The health advisories from EPA offer guidance for states and the federal government to meet standards that will avoid adverse health effects. Studies of individuals exposed to PFASs show increases in hormonal issues, organ damage, and cancer. Nationally, the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) regulates maximum contaminant levels (MCLs) allowed in drinking water for over 90 chemicals. However, PFASs currently remain on EPA’s unregulated and non-enforceable list for SDWA MCLs. EPA’s PFAS Action Plan shows that the Agency is still in the information gathering phase to determine the prevalence and full effects of the PFASs with regulation in the future.
Individual states have been putting their own regulation forward for PFASs. For example, in September 2020 California Governor Gavin Newsom signed Senate Bill No. 1044, which governs the tracking and recall of firefighting foam containing PFASs.