#1 – Last day to comment to the EPA on water contamination from PFA’s.
Today – Friday, July 20, is the last day the EPA will accept public comment on how it should address widespread water contamination from PFAS. At least, we think it is. The regulations.gov site has an error, where the pdf of the action (EPA-HQ-OW-2018-0270-0001) contains the deadline date of July 20th, but the website’s comment action deadline is Sept. 28th. Sigh. However, this is important enough to do both, in case the earlier date rules.
You can start right on it here, or you can read the background material provided below.
What are you talking about?: If you woke up this morning unsure of what PFA’s are, you are not alone. PFAS — (Poly- and PerFluoroAlkyl substances) are the toxic chemicals used, among other things, to make fire retardants, oil and water repellents, furniture, waterproof clothes, take out containers and non-stick cookware. The manufacture and use of these products has allowed them to enter our water supply.
Where is it?: In 2016, a study of 36,000 drinking water samples from 4,864 public water sources showed that 16 MILLION people across 33 states, three American territories and an Native American community were polluted with PFA’s. 13 states made up 75% of the findings, including CALIFORNIA with the highest frequency of detection, followed by New Jersey, North Carolina, Alabama, Pennsylvania, Ohio, New York, Georgia, Minnesota, Arizona, Massachusetts, and Illinois.
But that’s just trace amounts, right?: 66 water supplies serving 6 million people had at least one water sample at or above the EPA’s non-binding health advisory of 70 parts-per-trillion (ppt). The number of affected people is likely much higher but data are limited.
What does it do to people?: Studies noted in the EPA have linked PFA’s to cancer, thyroid disease, liver damage, immunity system effects, low infant birth rates and fertility problems as well as increased cholesterol levels among exposed populations.
How safe is “safe”?: The administration blocked a CDC report that the EPA’s current “safe-ish” level of PFA’s at 70 ppt, set in 2016, was 6 times too high. However, this guideline, which, as we noted before, is a “non-binding advisory”, is used by military bases and corporations when offering whole-house filtration systems as remediation for homes affected by pollution they caused..
What can we do to protect ourselves and our families?: “Most in-home water filters cannot effectively remove PFAS chemicals, though activated carbon filters and reverse osmosis can eliminate some forms of the compounds.” This fact sheet from the Michigan DEQ uses the 70 ppt level to rate types of certified filtration systems.
What are states doing? Several states have set enforceable standards that are lower. Vermont’s PFOA standard is 20 ppt. New Jersey’s proposed 14-ppt PFOA standard would replace the existing 40-ppt limit. State Rep. Winnie Brinks, a Democrat from Grand Rapids who introduced a bill to establish 5-ppt as the enforceable PFAS level in Michigan drinking water.
In 2017, California added PFAs to our Proposition 65 list of chemicals known to cause reproductive toxicity. By November 9, 2018, businesses will be required to provide a “clear and reasonable warning” before “knowingly and intentionally” exposing a person to either chemical. Proposition 65’s “discharge prohibition,” which takes effect in July 2019, prohibits a business from knowingly discharging or releasing a Proposition 65 listed chemical into a drinking water source or onto land where it can or probably will pass into a drinking water source. California has also proposed that carpets and rugs containing PFAS for stain resistance be considered a priority product under the state’s Safer Consumer Products program.
The CDC report was unblocked. Now what?: This June, under pressure from environmental groups and despite objection from the Trump administration, the blocked CDC toxicology report on PFAS was made public. We can easily comment on how our government should address widespread water contamination from PFAS through the Food & Water Watch website or go old-school and comment directly on the regulations.gov site.
- How the EPA and the Pentagon downplayed a growing toxic threat (MPRNews)(ProPublica)
- Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) and Your Health (ATSDR)
- An Overview of Perfluoroalkyl and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (atsdr.cdc.gov)
- Following Manchin’s efforts, CDC will release report on PFAs (manchin.senate)
Here are some sample comments, some taken before the government released the CDC report. Thanks, Scott Pruitt, for leaving.
Comment: I am concerned that the lack of cleanup standards for soil at sites in drinking water recharge areas neglects the fact that precipitation and other activities applying water to a site will result in continued introduction of PFAS to the groundwater that exceed the present health advisory. Without clearer guidance, responsible parties can provide alternative sources of drinking water but, continue activities that contaminate groundwater drinking supplies.
Comment: “The EPA must immediately address the widespread contamination of our drinking water from toxic PFAS chemicals by setting low, protective Maximum Contaminant Levels for PFAS chemicals, water quality standards that are enforceable by law. Failure to regulate these dangerous chemicals has exposed millions of people to substantial health risks. The EPA must act NOW to protect our water.”
Comment: It is unconscionable that you would have a Leadership Summit on PFOA pollution, yet only businesses and polluters were invited. Where are the invites to the people who are suffering as a result of contaminated water. Where are the affected communities? People suffering from this contamination will not be at the meeting yet the manufacturers of the chemicals used in the production of Teflon and other nonstick, water-resistant, and stain-resistant products will be well represented and you are only inviting public participation for a small portion of the summit.
Comment: This is unheard of and unfair to victims, please broadcast the entire summit in the interest of the public and public participation. I am deeply disturbed that you decided to bury a report on PFAS chemicals that run the risk of significantly harming our families. This could be a public health emergency, and it is the duty of your administration thoroughly and swiftly inform the country. I demand that you release this report immediately. Be the people’s president NOT the special interest broker for those who have money and want to take the American people for a ride. Shame on you for putting your business partners first!
This is part 1 of 2