What are PFAS and why are they a problem?

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a family of chemicals used since the 1950s to manufacture stain-resistant, water-resistant, and non-stick products. PFAS are widely used in common consumer products as coatings, on food packaging, outdoor clothing, carpets, leather goods, ski and snowboard waxes, and more. Certain types of firefighting foam—historically used by the U.S. military, local fire departments, and airports to fight oil and gasoline fires—may contain PFAS. PFAS in drinking water is an important emerging issue nationwide. Because PFAS are water soluble, over time PFAS from some firefighting foam, manufacturing sites, landfills, spills, air deposition from factories and other releases can seep into surface soils. From there, PFAS can leach into groundwater or surface water, and can contaminate drinking water. PFAS have also been found in rivers, lakes, fish, and wildlife.

The basics surrounding PFAS compounds and their potential for contamination

C.O.MM Water Department PFAS Summary Update

As we are a recipient of PFAS and the problem, we continue to follow the EPA’s new regulations for the future.  EPA cannot solve the problem of “forever chemicals” by tackling one route of exposure or one use at a time per the PFAS Strategic Roadmap EPA’s Commitment to Action for 2021-2024.  Rather, the EPA needs to take a lifecycle approach to PFAS in order to make meaningful progress.  PFAS pollution is not a legacy issue—these chemicals remain in use in U.S. commerce.   See website for more information https://www.epa.gov/system/files/documents/2021-10/pfas-roadmap_final-508.pdf

Massachusetts is home to some of strictest PFAS standards in the country, strengthened by the Baker-Polito Administration promulgation and implementation of nation-leading rules for drinking water systems and cleanups of contaminated sites, and investment of substantial funding to assist communities as they address PFAS contamination in drinking water systems.  https://www.mass.gov/info-details/per-and-polyfluoroalkyl-substances-pfas

Consider the Lifecycle of PFAS EPA will account for the full lifecycle of PFAS, their unique properties, the ubiquity of their uses, and the multiple pathways for exposure.  PFAS are a group of synthetic chemicals that continue to be released into the environment throughout the lifecycle of manufacturing, processing, distribution in commerce, use, and disposal. Each action in this cycle creates environmental contamination and human and ecological exposure.

Get Upstream of the Problem EPA will bring deeper focus to preventing PFAS from entering the environment in the first place—a foundational step to reducing the exposure and potential risks of future PFAS contamination.

Hold Polluters Accountable EPA will seek to hold polluters and other responsible parties accountable for their actions and for PFAS remediation efforts.

Ensure Science-Based Decision-Making EPA will invest in scientific research to fill gaps in understanding of PFAS, to identify which additional PFAS may pose human health and ecological risks at which exposure levels, and to develop methods to test, measure, remove, and destroy them.

Prioritize Protection of Disadvantaged Communities When taking action on PFAS, EPA will ensure that disadvantaged communities have equitable access to solutions.

Every level of government—federal, Tribal, state, and local—needs to exercise increased and sustained leadership to accelerate progress to clean up PFAS contamination, prevent new contamination, and make game-changing breakthroughs in the scientific understanding of PFAS. This strategic roadmap represents the Agency’s commitment on what EPA seeks to deliver from 2021 through 2024.

See the website https://www.epa.gov/pfas for more information.

EPA’s regulations will always be announced in the Federal Register and can be found at the following government websites: https://www.federalregister.gov/, and https://www.regulations.gov/

PFAS Resources

These links provided are to give public access to regulatory and educational resources concerning PFAS.

MA DEP PFAS Website: https://www.mass.gov/info-details/per-and-polyfluoroalkyl-substances-pfas

MWWA PFAS website: https://www.safewatermass.org

Association of State Drinking Water Administrators PFAS webpage: https://www.asdwa.org/pfas/

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Public Health Statement for PFOS and PFOA can be found at: https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/pfas/index.html

EPA PFAS Website: https://www.epa.gov/pfas

Interstate Technology & Regulatory Council (ITRC) PFAS Website: https://pfas-1.itrcweb.org/

Any questions please contact, Craig Crocker, Superintendent C.O.MM Water Department ccrocker@commfiredistrict.com