PA May/Should Join Other States in Setting Its Own Standards for Federally Unregulated PFAS | Newtown News of Interest |

[Chart: PFAS in some Newtown water wells are above limits set by other states. These wells are used to replenish fire hydrant water sources and not for drinking.]


Pennsylvania may be joining a growing list of states to set their own standards for federally unregulated chemicals known as PFAS.


The state's Environmental Quality Board voted 18-1 Tuesday morning to pursue a Maximum Contaminant Level rule for the per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances found in public and private drinking water wells throughout the commonwealth. A lower state limit could give officials and residents legal grounds to hold polluters accountable.


It is uncertain at this time what limits the board may consider at a later date, but it does seem likely the rules will be significantly less than a federal advisory level in place since 2016.


Several states have created their own PFAS limits since as early as 2018, starting with New Jersey's limits for 13 ppt of PFOS and 14 ppt for PFOA. Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, New York and Vermont have set similar standards, though the limits vary by each state.


The Federal Environmental Protection Agency set a lifetime health advisory level for PFAS of 70 ppt in May 2016, after conducting nationwide drinking water testing for potentially harmful chemicals.


Tuesday's vote came as the result of a 2017 petition from the Delaware Riverkeeper Network asking the board to set safe drinking water limits between 1 ppt to 6 ppt for PFOA, one of several PFAS chemicals.


While the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection did not support the Riverkeeper's limit to the board, the DEP did recommend moving forward based on state studies.


A Drexel University study on PFAS rules set by other states and statewide sampling published in January proposed several limits for Pennsylvania to consider.


The Drexel study recommended a limit of 8 ppt for PFOA and 14 ppt for PFOS, two of the most prevalent compounds.


The wait for a final rule could still be several months away at least, according to DEP spokesman Jamar Thrasher.