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Per and Polyfluoroalkyl substances, known as PFAS, are long-lasting chemicals that are resistant to heat and repel water and oil. They have been used for nearly 70 years in many industrial applications and consumer products like carpeting, water-resistant clothing, upholstery, food packaging, non-stick cookware, and personal care products. In addition, they have been used in fire-retarding foam and various industrial processes. Due to their widespread use and their persistence in the environment, PFAS are now found in water, air, fish, wildlife, and soil around the world. There are thousands of PFAS chemicals and their presence in the environment is an international issue.
The City of Norfolk Department of Utilities Water Quality Division is keeping customers informed that we are testing for PFAS in the drinking water produced at Moores Bridges and Kristen M. Lentz Water Treatment Plants. Following monitoring required by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under the Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule 5, results will be added to next year’s Consumer Confidence Report and the City’s Water Quality webpage. The EPA uses the Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule (UCMR) to collect data for contaminants that are suspected to be present in drinking water and do not have health-based standards set under the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA).
The City of Norfolk’s tap water continues to meet all federal and state standards for drinking water safety and customers may continue to drink tap water. The EPA interim health advisories do not recommend that consumers stop using tap water, nor do they recommend the use of bottled water. The EPA notes that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not established standards for PFAS in bottled water. For more information, visit the EPA’s Meaningful and Achievable Steps You Can Take to Reduce Your Risk page at https://www.epa.gov/pfas/meaningful-and-achievable-steps-you-can-take-reduce-your-risk.
Additional information, including answers to frequently asked questions and links to additional sources, is available at the Virginia Department of Health’ website - https://www.vdh.virginia.gov/drinking-water/pfas/.
Health advisory levels were instituted in the summer of 2022 by the EPA to address common PFAS compounds and replace previous levels set in 2016. These Health Advisory levels include PFOA at 0.004 parts per trillion (ppt), PFOS at 0.02 ppt, GenX at 10 ppt, and PFBS at 2000 ppt. Health-based advisory levels are established by the EPA for chemicals in drinking water that lack maximum contaminant levels.
The EPA has set lifetime health advisory levels for PFOA (a common PFAS compound) of 4 parts per quadrillion (1,000,000,000,000,000), a level undetectable by current technology and significantly lower than the EPA’s 2016 health advisory level of 70 parts per trillion (1,000,000,000,000). To illustrate, 4 parts per quadrillion is the same ratio as 4 drops of water within the water it would take to fill 20,000 Olympic size swimming pools.
The new advisories’ exposure levels replace the previous level released in 2016 and were set near zero to provide Americans, including the most sensitive populations, with a margin of protection from a lifetime of exposure. They also consider other potential sources of exposure to these PFAS beyond drinking water, such as food, air, consumer products, etc. The EPA’s lifetime exposure calculations assumed 20% of the exposure is allocated to drinking water and the remaining 80% is attributed to all other potential exposure sources. The advisory is nonregulatory and is intended to be in place during the time between initial understanding of health effects and publication of the final enforceable National Primary Drinking Water Regulation. The EPA anticipates finalizing a maximum contaminant level for PFOA and PFOS, as well as a Health Index calculation for four other PFAS, by the end of 2023.
For more information on PFAS from The City of Norfolk, contact the Water Quality Laboratory at (757)-441-5678. For more information on PFAS from the EPA, visit www.epa.gov/pfas or visit the EPA’s PFAS Health Advisory page at www.epa.gov/system/files/documents/2022-06/drinking-water-ha-pfas-factsheet-water-system.pdf