Pennsylvania Passes PFAS Regulations

Pennsylvania E+E Leader

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by | Jan 19, 2023

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Pennsylvania E+E Leader

(Credit: Canva Pro)

Pennsylvania is the latest state to pass perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) regulations for drinking water standards, as the state Attorney General signed the proposed regulations into law in the final step of a lengthy regulatory process.

Independent Regulatory Review Commission and Pennsylvania’s Environmental Quality Board both approved the proposed standards of 14 parts per trillion (ppt) for PFOA and 18 ppt for PFOS to conclude 2022. In accordance with the Pennsylvania PFAS regulation, water companies and municipalities are required to monitor their water regularly for PFAS and to treat the water if they exceed the maximum permissible levels. Companies that the state believes have contributed to the contamination of drinking water sources will be subject to enforcement actions if their contamination levels are detected at or above the set guidelines.

PFAS

The man-made chemicals known as perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) have been widely used in industry and consumer products since the 1940s and are resistant to heat, water, and oil, and linger in the environment and the body. The substances have been used to manufacture cookware, carpets, clothing, furniture fabrics, food packaging, and other water, grease, and stain-resistant materials. Additionally, they are utilized in a variety of industrial procedures as well as firefighting foams.

A number of adverse effects have been observed in laboratory animals and humans from exposure to perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA). PFAS exposure can occur by eating fish caught in contaminated waters, consuming foods packaged in PFAS-coated packaging, eating soil and dust polluted with PFAS, or handling products containing PFAS chemicals.

According to the Agency for Toxic Substance and Disease Registry (ATSDR), the following diseases and conditions have been linked to PFAS exposure.

  • Increased cholesterol levels
  • Decreased vaccine response in children
  • Changes in liver enzymes
  • Increased risk of high blood pressure or pre-eclampsia in pregnant women
  • Small decreases in infant birth weights
  • Increased risk of kidney or testicular cancer

EPA Regulations at the State and National Levels

In recent years, the EPA has taken substantial steps to regulate PFAS contamination in the country’s water, land, and air. It is anticipated that these regulations will also require state actions (and some states may still enact stronger regulations than the EPA). Pennsylvania is not the first state to enact rules and regulations regarding PFAS. As of July 2022, 21 states had either proposed or active regulations in place regarding PFAS.

Although the contribution of businesses and industries to drinking water contamination issues appears to be minimal on the surface, both federal and state regulations will have a substantial impact on businesses and industries.

Businesses and property owners in states where PFAS drinking water standards are in place have already experienced the consequences of unexpected costs arising from the local environmental agencies’ scrutiny of possible sources of PFAS pollution.

Based on recent studies and the EPA’s commitment to reducing PFAS exposure, companies must begin preparing now for regulatory actions that can and will have significant financial impacts down the road.

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