The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is proposing the first legally enforceable national drinking water standards for six PFAS chemicals, drawing widespread praise from public health groups and concern from the chemical industry over some of the science.
On March 14, the agency proposed regulations that would set strict new limits for two per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, PFOA and PFOS, while regulating four others — PFNA, PFHxS, PFBS and GenX — as a mixture with hazard limits when at least one of them is present.
The new regulations are aimed at drinking water systems, but plastics companies from resin firms to processors have been subject to regulations and legal settlements with government agencies in Michigan, Vermont and elsewhere over PFAS contamination from manufacturing operations.
There's a move within plastics product makers to remove PFAS chemicals from production processes.
EPA's new proposal was praised by environmental and health groups, which called it unprecedented and a public health milestone in cleaning up drinking water.
"Today's announcement by the EPA is historic progress," said Scott Faber, senior vice president for government affairs at the Environmental Working Group in Washington. "More than 200 million Americans could have PFAS in their tap water. Americans have been drinking contaminated water for decades. This proposal is a critical step toward getting these toxic poisons out of our water."
In New York state, where concerns arose around two Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics plants in 2016, environmental groups used the EPA proposal to urge state officials to make their own PFAS standards stricter.
"Today's historic victory is the result of yearslong advocacy by PFAS-impacted communities and scientists, who demanded that our government stop exposure to these cancer-causing chemicals," said Rob Hayes, director of Clean Water for Environmental Advocates New York.
That group said the EPA proposal, if enacted, would be the first new toxic chemicals the agency has regulated in drinking water in over 20 years.