Home NewsCorporate Environmental Water Issues Water Treatment North America U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to develop a National Drinking Water Regulation for “forever chemicals”.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to develop a National Drinking Water Regulation for “forever chemicals”.

The U.S. EPA plans to propose a primary drinking water standard for two types of “forever” chemicals, agency officials said Oct. 10 at the Water Environment Federation (WEF) annual conference.

The standard would set enforceable limits for PFOA and PFOS, which are widely used, long lasting chemicals, components of which break down very slowly over time – collectively known as PFAS. The standard would also require monitoring of public water supplies as part of EPA’s overall strategy for addressing the prevalence of PFAS in drinking water sources, wastewater and biosolids. The proposal will be finalised by the end of 2023, and will include both a non-enforceable Maximum Contaminant Level Goal (MCLG) and an enforceable standard, or Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) or Treatment Technique.

Prior to proposing the standard, EPA is actively engaging in multiple consultations and stakeholder engagement activities including the Science Advisory Board, (SAB) and small entities, specifically public water systems serving 10,000 people or fewer.

EPA also plans to expand monitoring for PFAS in drinking water systems between 2023 and 2025, including small water utilities that previously were exempt.

Matt Klasen, manager of EPA’s PFAS Council, noted that the agency’s proposal to designate PFOA and PFOS as hazardous substances would be a “significant step in improving information about PFAS releases and getting us the tools for holding those responsible for PFAS contamination accountable.”

The topic of PFAS was of primary interest and the focus of numerous sessions at the conference, held Oct. 8 to 12 in New Orleans. Many firms and speakers emphasized not just the removal of PFAS from water supplies, wastewater and biosolids, but also identifying scalable methods to destroy it, or increasing sampling to reduce PFAS contamination at the source.

“Eliminating or preventing pollution at the source, is reducing the amount of pollution to control, treat, and dispose of … and less pollution posed to the environment and public health,” Nick Giannetti, state pre-treatment program coordinator for the Vermont Dept. of Environmental Conservation, said. He added that the model “is really well-suited for those smaller- to medium-size POTWs (publicly owned treatment works).”

Several research studies are underway to evaluate different technologies to destroy PFAS. One project, a partnership between WEF and a multi-disciplinary team led by Brown and Caldwell, will evaluate the effectiveness of using extremely high temperatures in a process called pyrolysis followed by thermal oxidation to destroy PFAS to enable beneficial reuse of biosolids.

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