Laurel, Md. – March 14, 2023 – WSSC Water General Manager and CEO Kishia L. Powell today issued the following statement on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposed regulations impacting six types of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in drinking water. For two of the most common PFAS compounds, perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), the EPA today proposed a Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) of 4.0 parts per trillion. The EPA also proposed a regulation to limit any mixture containing one or more of the following four PFAS compounds: PFNA, PFHxS, PFBS and HFPO-DA (commonly called GenX chemicals). These manmade compounds, which are very persistent in the human body and environment, do not break down and will accumulate over time.
“WSSC Water’s mission is to protect public health and safety by supplying safe, clean and reliable water to our 1.9 million customers. We are proud of our impressive record of zero drinking water quality violations in our nearly 105-year history and are committed to continuing this exceptional level of excellence.
“We support the EPA’s efforts to safeguard public drinking water supplies by addressing emerging contaminants like PFAS compounds. We don’t want these manmade compounds in our drinking water supplies, and if treatment process changes are necessary to meet these new regulations, rest assured, we will make them.
“For several years, WSSC Water has been proactively testing for PFAS compounds in our drinking water – testing protocols that go above and beyond federal and state requirements. Test results are posted on our website.
“We are champions of clean water and vigilant stewards of our customers’ money. If water treatment process changes are necessary to meet new federal PFAS standards, we support policies that hold the entities causing PFAS to enter the environment and drinking water supplies financially responsible. These costs should not be passed on to our customers.
“WSSC Water will carefully evaluate the proposed regulations and provide the EPA with feedback within the 60-day comment period.”
Four parts per trillion is equivalent to one drop of water in five Olympic-sized swimming pools. The MCL is the maximum contaminant concentration allowed in public drinking water. It is based on a lifetime exposure level - when drinking two liters of water daily – considering technological and cost limitations. It is important to note that the proposed PFAS MCLs are not currently enforceable drinking water standards. When the EPA issues the final MCLs later this year, it will also announce the date water providers must comply with the new standards.
Current PFAS Testing
In January 2020, WSSC Water proactively began quarterly testing its water for 18 PFAS compounds at its Potomac and Patuxent water filtration plants, which provide drinking water to customers in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties. In September 2022, WSSC Water increased PFAS monitoring from 18 to 29 compounds using the latest EPA testing methods. These proactive measures went above and beyond federal and state requirements. Test results are posted here.
PFAS, often called forever chemicals, are a large group of manmade compounds used since the 1940s in common household and commercial products. Having unique chemical properties, PFAS are often used to keep food from sticking to cookware and make clothes, carpets and furniture resistant to water and stains. PFAS are slow to break down, and using products with PFAS puts these chemicals into the environment, where, over time, they may end up in drinking water supplies. PFAS can also enter the environment as consumers wash and throw away products containing these chemicals and through bodily waste.
It is also important to note that a person’s exposure to PFAS comes from many sources, including consumer goods such as cookware, cosmetics, food wrappings, stain/water-resistant clothing, and carpet and furniture treatments. To reduce exposure to PFAS, avoid buying non-stick cookware and stain-resistant furniture and carpeting containing PFAS. Look for ‘fluoro’ or ‘perfluoro’ in a list of ingredients or ask the manufacturer. Limit eating foods packed in materials that use PFAS, like microwave popcorn bags, fast food boxes and bakery bags. And avoid personal care products with PFAS, including certain dental floss, nail polish, facial moisturizers and cosmetics. Limiting the use of products containing PFAS will help protect drinking water supplies.