Menu Bar

Home           Calendar           Topics          Just Charlestown          About Us

Monday, April 15, 2024

Biden EPA Finalizes Limits on PFAS in Drinking Water

'Huge—and Long Overdue—Victory'


The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency finalized the country's first-ever national limits on "forever chemicals" in drinking water, a move that advocates welcomed as a critical step toward protecting tens of millions of people from exposure to pervasive toxic compounds that have been linked to a range of health problems—including cancer and reproductive issues.

The EPA estimates its new standards for per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), which can take thousands of years to break down, would reduce exposure for around 100 million people and prevent thousands of deaths. 

Utility groups are expected to challenge the finalized limits in court, claiming they would be too burdensome to implement.

The new rule would require water utilities to monitor and, if necessary, reduce the levels of two forms of PFAS—known as PFOS and PFOA—to keep them in line with or below a maximum contaminant level of 4 parts per trillion. The agency set the maximum contaminant level for PFNA, PFHxS, and other compounds known as "GenX chemicals" at 10 parts per trillion.

The EPA's limits are not as bold as those recommended by scientists and green groups, including the Environmental Working Group (EWG), which nevertheless praised the finalized standards as essential progress. EWG has endorsed a 1 part per trillion PFAS limit for drinking water.

"More than 200 million Americans could have PFAS in their tap water and for decades Americans have been exposed to toxic 'forever chemicals' with no oversight from their government," EWG president Ken Cook said Wednesday. "That's because for generations, PFAS chemicals slid off of every federal environmental law like a fried egg off a Teflon pan—until Joe Biden came along."

"Today's announcement of robust, health-protective legal limits on PFAS in tap water will finally give tens of millions of Americans the protection they should have had decades ago," Cook said. "It is the most consequential decision to regulate drinking water in 30 years."

Recent research has shed light on how ubiquitous PFAS have become: They've been detected, often in alarmingly high amounts, in groundwatersoilfood, and common household products such as toilet paper and dental floss.

In the face of such evidence, the EPA has been accused of dragging its feet on imposing strict limits on PFAS, underestimating their levels in U.S. drinking water, and withholding key data about the compounds, which at least 11 states have moved to regulate in the absence of federal action.

Rob Bilott, an attorney who has worked for decades to uncover how DuPont and other companies exposed U.S. communities to toxic contaminants, said Wednesday that "it has taken far too long to get to this point, but the scientific facts and truth about the health threat posed by these man-made poisons have finally prevailed over the decades of corporate cover-ups and misinformation campaigns designed to mislead the public and to delay action to protect public health."

"Today we celebrate a huge—and long overdue—victory for public health in this country," said Bilott. "The EPA is finally moving forward to protect drinking water across the United States by adopting federally enforceable limits on some of the most toxic, persistent, and bioaccumulative chemicals ever found in our nation's drinking water supply."