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Energy & Environment

EPA Dramatically Lowers Guidance For Some PFAS In Drinking Water

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Dave Mistich
/
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has dramatically lowered its guidance for “forever chemicals” in drinking water.

In 2016, the EPA advised that exposure to certain synthetic chemicals known as PFAS be limited to 70 parts per trillion. On Wednesday, the EPA lowered that guidance to under 1 part per trillion.

PFAS may cause cancer, damage to the liver and immune system, and birth defects and developmental problems in infants.

In 2014, PFAS were found in groundwater near the Shepherd Field Air National Guard Base. Firefighter training had been conducted at the base using firefighting foam containing PFAS.

Since 2017, Martinsburg’s water system has been removing PFAS from its drinking water.

The bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act includes $5 billion to address PFAS contamination in water systems. U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, one of the law’s sponsors, said the new EPA guidance is confusing and that no water system can test for such low levels.

“I take the threats of PFAS pollution seriously, but the federal government needs to focus its resources on communities with serious contamination issues to protect human health,” Capito said in a statement. “No water system in the country—in fact, not even bottled water—will be able to demonstrate compliance with standards EPA has set today.”

In 2009, the EPA reached an agreement with the Dupont Washington Works in Parkersburg to offer residents water treatment or bottled water if one kind of PFAS in their drinking water exceeded a certain threshold.

In both Parkersburg and Martinsburg, testing revealed that some residents were found to have many times more PFAS in their blood than than the national average.


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