What are PFAS?
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a family of man-made chemicals that are used to make many everyday products such as waterproof clothing, stain-resistant furniture and carpets, to-go restaurant containers, and non-stick cookware. Additionally, PFAS are also present in some firefighting substances and in other industrial processes. They have been in use since the 1940s and as a result of their widespread use they are found in the environment worldwide. PFAS have been referred to as “forever chemicals” because of they do not biodegrade in the environment.
Why are PFAS a concern?
While scientific studies into the impacts of PFAS in drinking water are currently limited to a handful of chemicals, the EPA and other organizations are conducting more research.
The most studied PFAS, perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS), have been identified by the EPA as contaminants of concern. Specifically, the EPA currently identifies PFOA as “likely to be a carcinogen”, which is a step below a “carcinogenic” classification. PFOS is currently identified to have “suggestive evidence of carcinogenic potential”, a step below PFOA.
The EPA recently published interim lifetime Health Advisories for PFOA and PFOS. The updated advisory levels, which are based on new science and consider lifetime exposure, indicate that some negative health effects may occur with concentrations of PFOA or PFOS in water at 0.004 parts per trillion (ppt) and 0.02 ppt, respectively. These interim health advisories will remain in place until EPA establishes a National Primary Drinking Water Regulation.
For reference, the level at which the PFOA Health Advisory is an amount that roughly equivalent to travelling 0.6 millimeters on a trip to the sun.
Are there PFAS in Parker’s water or wastewater?
The consumer products mentioned above are the largest source of human exposure to this group of chemicals. Additionally, communities where some industrial and manufacturing activities occur, these chemicals can contaminate water sources.
PWSD’s source waters are a mix of groundwater and surface water that do not come into contact with known PFAS activities.
Additionally, while PWSD does not produce, manufacture or use PFAS in the treatment of water or wastewater, they do come through our wastewater systems and treatment plants as a byproduct of products that are used in homes and businesses.
What is PWSD doing?
With regard to our drinking water supply, PWSD and other water utilities across the country are scheduled to begin monitoring for 29 different PFAS between 2023 and 2025 under the EPA’s fifth Unregulated Contaminants Monitoring Rule (UCMR).
Under the UCMR, every five years the EPA is required to issue list of unregulated contaminants to be monitored by water systems under the Safe Drinking Water Act. This monitoring provides EPA and other parties with scientifically valid data on the national occurrence of these contaminants in drinking water. As part of the testing, PWSD will report any findings on our annual Consumer Confidence Report. We will rely on the EPA and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) for further guidance on any regulatory updates and necessary actions as the science progresses.
With regard to our wastewater operations, future discharge permit requirements could impact PWSD’s pretreatment program, treatment processes, and biosolids program.
How can I reduce my exposure to PFAS?
If you are concerned about PFAS exposure, it’s recommended that you consider avoiding the following consumer products:
- waterproof clothing (look for water resistant instead)
- stain-resistant furniture and carpets
- grease-resistant restaurant containers and wrappers
- non-stick cookware
Some home treatment devices (water filters) that meet NSF/ANSI Standards 53 and 58 are certified to remove PFAS. You can visit NSF International for more information. If you choose to use a home treatment device, please remember to follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully.