WASHINGTON, D.C., USA — When is the last time you thought about what's in the water coming out of your faucet?
Right now, the EPA is proposing some big changes on what should be allowed in terms of "forever chemicals," or PFAS (perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances), in our drinking water. On Tuesday, EPA leaders announced a proposal that would implement the first national standard to limit PFAS chemicals in drinking water.
"The EPA is taking yet another bold step to protect public health," U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael Regan said on Tuesday. "We anticipate that when fully implemented, this rule will prevent thousands of deaths and tens of thousands of PFAS-related illnesses."
PFAS are synthetic chemical compounds that have a range of negative health effects on humans including liver damage, thyroid disease, obesity, fertility issues, and cancer, according to the CDC.
The Florida Department of Environment Protection in a statement said they're reviewing the EPA's proposed National Drinking water Standard for PFAS to determine how it would impact the state's drinking water program.
"The science and understanding around PFAS continues to develop, as evidenced through EPA's most recent announcement," a spokesperson for the Florida Department of Environment Protection said in a statement. "DEP is committed to working with EPA and Florida's drinking water facilities throughout this rulemaking process. EPA anticipates finalizing its proposed PFAS drinking water regulation by the end of 2023, at which point DEP will quickly implement any new drinking water standards.
"Starting back in 2018, prior to the U.S. EPA releasing the 2019 Action Plan which included the initiation of this rulemaking, DEP developed provisional groundwater and soil cleanup target levels for PFOA and PFOS and initiated PFAS assessment work at Fire Training Facilities, Dry Cleaners and State-funded Cleanup sites," the statement reads, in part.
If the proposal passes, water systems will have to monitor for six specific chemicals that can be found in drinking water, notify the public about PFAS levels and work to reduce them if levels go above the standard allowed.
According to Tampa Bay Water, the region's PFAS levels were last checked in 2015 when no harmful compounds were found.
"In 2015, we tested our member's drinking water supplies for PFAS compounds," Tampa Bay Water Public Communications Manager Brandon Moore said. "At that time, that was at much higher levels than the four parts per trillion, but no PFAS were found at that time."
With this proposal, Tampa Bay Water will take proactive action this summer.
"The next step for Tampa Bay Water is to test our drinking water supply for farms as part of an EPA study this summer,"Moore said.
Moore said our region's water is already checked regularly for more than a hundred regulated compounds.
"If PFAS were found in drinking water, we would implement technologies that are recognized by the EPA to be proven to remove PFAS," said Moore.
The proposal is now open for public comment before the standards are finalized.