CFPUA Statement on Recently Released DHHS Report
Yesterday afternoon, the Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry (ATSDR), a unit within the United States Department of Health and Human Services, released an updated Draft Toxicological Profile for four different per-fluorinated compounds. According to the report, ATSDR has proposed revised minimum risk levels (MRLs) for the PFOA and PFOS compounds, and new MRLs for the PFHxS and PFNA compounds. A minimal risk level is a non-enforceable recommendation that estimates “the amount of a chemical a person can eat, drink, or breathe each day without a detectable risk to health.”
The revision reduces the minimum risk levels for PFOA and PFOS compounds. CFPUA will be contacting the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) for guidance on the new levels and their implications for drinking water. When using the revised numbers to establish risk, the report suggests the following levels:
- 11 parts per trillion (ppt) for the compound PFOA
- 7 ppt for the compound PFOS.
- 74 ppt for the compound PFHxS
- 11 ppt for the compound PFNA
CFPUA’s most recent testing results for these compounds, conducted on May 8, 2018, show levels from the Sweeney Water Treatment Plant pilot study of:
- 11 ppt for the compound PFOA
- 13 ppt for the compound PFOS
- 4.9 ppt for the compound PFHxS
- 2.2 ppt for the compound PFNA
As is the case with GenX, the Sweeney Water Treatment Plant was not designed to remove per-fluorinated compounds from drinking water and is currently unable to do so. In May 2018, the CFPUA Board of Directors authorized staff to begin negotiating a design contract to install Granular Activated Carbon (GAC) technology at the Sweeney Water Treatment Plant. In a pilot study conducted over the past year at the Plant, GAC has proven to be effective in reducing levels of per-fluorinated compounds in drinking water.
However, as can be seen in the case of GenX, discharge control is the most effective solution to minimizing exposure to per-fluorinated compounds. Levels of per-fluorinated compounds have decreased significantly since the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality began its enforcement actions against Chemours. In the absence of effluent limits that require dischargers like Chemours to reduce or eliminate their release of these compounds to the environment, communities such as ours are forced to make a choice between expensive upgrades to water treatment infrastructure and public health—choices and costs that no community should have to bear.
“Chemours is attempting to influence the State to raise acceptable levels of PFCs in the environment while this federal report suggests they should be lower” said Jim Flechtner, Executive Director of CFPUA. “There needs to be a full understanding of how PFCs affect drinking water and public health before corporations put these pollutants in the River.”
As a drinking water provider for over 200,000 people, CFPUA is responsible for providing the cleanest water possible to our customers. In order to do so, CFPUA, and drinking water providers across the country, need action on many fronts.
- Federal and state agencies responsible for setting drinking water standards must establish regulatory limits for discharge to source water that account for all per-fluorinated compounds and are protective of public health.
- Information on all known emerging contaminants present in source waters should be made available to the public and to drinking water providers to assist in testing and monitoring efforts.
- Dischargers should disclose the full array of per-fluorinated compounds in their effluent, and should share information on testing standards and monitoring techniques for those compounds.
The findings of this report provide more information on per-fluorinated compounds, and CFPUA appreciates that the United States Department of Health and Human Services has allowed its release. We will continue to work with the North Carolina Departments of Health and Human Services and Environmental Quality to ensure that we fully understand the report’s implications and their relevance to drinking water.