Making State and National news, there is no doubt that PFAS is top of mind for water experts and consumers alike. To provide you with an updated snapshot of the many moving parts of this complex issue, let’s take a look at what’s currently in the PFAS pipeline:
CA State Board Plans to Lower Notification and Response Levels
The State Water Resources Control Board’s (State Board) Division of Drinking Water (DDW) had planned to lower the Notification Levels (NLs) and Response Levels (RLs) for perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) as early as this month. However, some water experts, including the Association of California Water Agencies (ACWA), have expressed concern over unintended consequences of the plan.
In a comment letter to the State Board, ACWA stated that lowering the NLs and RLs would erode the “public’s confidence in the safety and quality of our state’s drinking water sources” as the public “will expect water agencies to provide drinking water only below DDW’s established Response Levels since DDW recommends that water systems remove sources from service if contaminants are detected at concentrations above those levels.” ACWA estimates that at least 30% of water systems would be unable to test below the proposed lower NLs and RLs for PFOA and PFOS despite their compliance with existing drinking water regulations.
In short, the concern is that the public will not differentiate between what is recommended versus what is required under regulatory law, ultimately undermining the public’s confidence in the overall safety and quality of their drinking water.
CA AB-756: PWS and PFAS
Update: AB-756 was signed into law by Governor Newsom on July 31st.
Under AB 756, public water systems required to monitor for PFAS by the State Board’s DDW that receive a “confirmed detection” must “report that detection in the water system’s annual consumer confidence report.” If the combined concentration of PFOA and PFOS exceeds the RL (70 parts per trillion), the public water system must either take the source out of use or provide direct public notification within 30 days of the confirmed detection. A list of direct public notification requirements is provided in Section 1(3) of the bill.
The new law will take effect next year.
Original article: Having passed in the California Senate, a bill bolstering the State Board’s enforcement power concerning PFAS testing for drinking water now awaits the Governor’s signature.
According to Assemblymember Cristina Garcia (D-Bell Gardens), the author of the bill, “AB-756 authorizes the [State Board] to issue testing orders for multiple water districts, rather than one at a time—facilitating current investigative testing that is already in progress.” Moreover, the bill expands the notification requirement to all EPA Method 537.1 and 537 Rev. 1.1 analytes, rather than just PFOA and PFOS. The impetus behind the bill is to require PFAS testing, reporting, and notification by law, expanding the State Board’s current regulatory power.
An earlier version of the bill would have required over 7,000 public water systems in the state to test for all known analytes in the PFAS family. It would have also given the State Board authority to regulate the analytes in drinking water as a class, rather than chemical by chemical.
Critics of the bill, including ACWA and Assemblymember Bill Quirk (D-Hayward), expressed concern that this bill would create a “unique regulatory process for one specific group of chemicals” and would effectively put the cart before the horse by writing law before understanding the science, as PFAS data, methodology, and treatment are still being explored.
U.S. Department of Defense and PFAS
In one of his first official acts, the new U.S. Secretary of Defense, Dr. Mark T. Esper, launched a PFAS Task Force to address the PFAS contamination that affects approximately 400 Department of Defense (DoD) sites and surrounding water supplies.
“The Department is committed to taking a strong and proactive stance to address the effects arising out of any releases of these substances from all defense activities including the National Guard and Reserves,” Esper wrote in a memo written on his swearing-in day. "We must approach the problem in an aggressive and holistic way, ensuring a coordinated DoD-wide approach to the issue.”
Key focus areas for the Task Force include health effects, cleanup standards and performance, finding and funding an effective PFAS-free firefighting foam, science-backed standards for exposure and cleanup, interagency coordination, and public perception of the DoD’s efforts. According to Esper’s July 23rd memo, the PFAS Task Force will report on its composition and charter within 30 days, and provide an update within 180 days.
Earlier this month the House passed a $733 billion National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that included an amendment sponsored by Rep. Mike Turner (R-Ohio) requiring the DoD to share PFSA contamination data with local communities.
According to Military.com, Turner's amendment passed a day after the Environmental Working Group (EWG) advocacy organization issued a report stating that 58 more Air Force bases had been found to have groundwater with traces of potentially cancer-causing PFAS, bringing the total of bases in all the services with detected PFAS contamination to 175.
The EWG and Social Science Environmental Health Research Institute (SSEHRI) have created an interactive map using EPA, DoD, and public water system data to identify all known sites where drinking water and groundwater sources have been contaminated by PFAS.
PFAS On the Hill: ACIL Addresses Congress
A key player in the crafting of PFAS legislation on the Hill is the American Council of Independent Laboratories (ACIL). This month ACIL members met with Congressional staff regarding pending PFAS legislation, including amendments to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). ACIL was there to provide expertise and help ensure legislators and their staff are adequately informed when tackling this complex issue.
ACIL is the trade association of the commercial environmental laboratory industry, and represents laboratories—such as Babcock Laboratories—responsible for the bulk of environmental testing performed in the U.S.; the companies who supply the analytical instrumentation to laboratories; and the organizations responsible for auditing and accrediting the laboratories. With a membership network comprised of environmental testing professionals and industry leaders with considerable experience with PFAS, Congress has tapped ACIL to serve as a go-to resource concerning PFAS legislation. Specifically, ACIL wants to help Congress ensure that PFAS method development and studies generate data of known and documented quality so that data is comparable across the board. In order for the government to make informed decisions regarding PFAS that engender public confidence, rigidly defined analytical methodology must be developed and validated so that properly qualified laboratories will generate equivalent results when the methods are employed in routine monitoring.
PFAS contamination has become a critical national issue, with solutions requiring the assistance of environmental testing experts, such as ACIL. Babcock Laboratories is proud to be a member of ACIL, contributing to the important conversation and education surrounding PFAS, as well as the testing of these pervasive and harmful chemicals.
Babcock Laboratories’ testing capabilities include the 14 compounds identified in EPA Method 537 Rev 1.1, as well as the 18 target analytes for EPA Method 537.1. Babcock Labs also has experience using other methods appropriate to non-potable matrices, such as landfill leachates, condensates, and groundwater. To ensure that your organization meets its PFAS monitoring requirements under the State Board’s Phased Investigation Approach, contact us today about PFAS testing services.