EPA Promulgates Regulations Concerning PFAS Chemicals Drinking Water

Eric Jacobi

EPA Promulgates Regulations Concerning PFAS Chemicals Drinking Water

The Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) and the Biden Administration announced the first federal regulations regarding the presence of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (“PFAS”) in drinking water. Known as “forever chemicals” because of their resistance to breaking down in the environment, PFAS present significant health risks. While PFAS are found in a myriad of consumer items, one of the primary sources of human exposure is through drinking water.

These regulations aim to reduce the concentration of PFAS in drinking water by establishing enforceable levels of PFAS in the roughly 66,000 public drinking water systems across the country. Within three years, all public drinking systems must monitor, measure, and publish their respective PFAS levels. And within five years, all systems above regulatory criteria must implement remedies that will successfully reduce PFAS concentrations.

Depending on the specific PFAS compound (of which there are thousands, though only six are included in the regulations), EPA has set maximum contamination levels as low as four parts per trillion. Although unenforceable, EPA also set containment level goals for some PFAS compounds even lower than that. Individual states may further regulate PFAS, though these EPA regulations represent the maximum containment levels that the states may permit.

The federal government has no authority to regulate most communities who procure drinking water from private wells. Nevertheless, EPA recognizes that PFAS contamination is widespread and may impact well owners. To address this shortcoming, EPA is funding a grant program to the states to help small and disadvantaged communities address PFAS contamination in private wells. It is still unclear just how much funding will go towards mitigating PFAS levels in private wells, or even how this will work from a practical perspective. Thus, while it is encouraging that EPA has given this topic some thought, the path for private well owners to acquire funding to measure and remedy the PFAS issues is still murky at best. This is not an issue which requires well owners or industrial facilities to take any regulatory action at this time. However, it is certainly an issue worth watching.

If you have any questions on this topic or other environmental issues, please call Eric Jacobi at (434) 260-7978. Jacobi & Case, P.C. has offices in Connecticut and Virginia and has been practicing environmental law for almost 37 years.