New EPA PFAS Regulations


New EPA PFAS Regulations

On April 10th, 2024, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized the long-awaited regulations for PFAS in drinking water. Six new enforcement standards, or maximum contaminant levels (MCLs), have been established for six different PFAS compounds: PFOA, PFOS, PFHxS, PFNA, and GenX individually, and a combined standard for the sum of PFNA, PFHxS, GenX, and PFBS.

PFAS, or Per and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances, are a class of chemicals used in everything from food packaging and cookware to upholstery, clothing and firefighting foam. The chemicals do not break down in the environment and are commonly found in dust, air, soil and water. Some PFAS can be found in the blood of people and animals all over the world and are present at low levels in a variety of food products and in the environment.

Removing PFAS from drinking water continues to be a major priority for the City of Madison. Madison has comprehensively tested all wells for these six PFAS over the last five years and is well positioned to ensure that all water delivered by the utility meets and will continue to meet these new strict standards for PFAS in drinking water.

“I am pleased to see the federal government has adopted a stronger PFAS standard to protect the health of our families and communities,” said Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway. “The Madison Water Utility has been proactive in monitoring drinking water for PFAS and securing funds to address pollution, and this means Madison will meet the new standards.”

New PFAS Regulations for Drinking Water:

US EPA finalized the rule after years of review and an evaluation of over 120,000 comments submitted by the public on the proposed rule. The final regulations are summarized in the table below:

CompoundMCLG (Public Health Goal)MCL (Enforceable Limit)
PFOAZero4 ppt
PFOSZero4 ppt
PFHxS10 ppt10 ppt
PFNA10 ppt10 ppt
GenX (HFPO-DA)10 ppt10 ppt
Mixtures containing PFHxS, PFNA, GenX, and PFBSHazard Index: 1Hazard Index: 1

MCL = maximum contaminant level; MCLG = MCL goal; ppt = parts per trillion or ng/L

The new rule requires utilities to monitor for the above-listed six PFAS by 2027 and provide results of any monitoring in the annual water quality report (Consumer Confidence Report (CCR)). If any source is found to exceed the new regulatory limits, solutions must be implemented to reduce PFAS by 2029. Madison has been testing and reporting on PFAS since 2019, and is already meeting this reporting requirement.  

Madison rigorously tested for PFAS in drinking water in 2023; results are found to be well below the new regulatory limits with wide margins of safety. Though this is the case, the new rules confirm the need for treatment at Well 15 which has high levels of several PFAS.       

Status of Well 15 PFAS Treatment:

Well 15 is the only municipal drinking water well that does not currently meet new EPA PFAS standards; the well was preemptively shut down in 2019 amid community concern and has not operated since. The decision to not operate Well 15, in addition to rigorous testing, has lead to the eventual construction of the first municipal PFAS treatment system in Wisconsin. Construction will begin this summer (2024), with the expectation for the PFAS treatment system to be operational at Well 15 by next summer (2025), well before the new EPA rules take effect.  

The first steps toward installing PFAS treatment at Well 15 are underway. Pre-construction meetings are currently being held with the contractor (Daniels Construction).

Informed by community input, the City has opted for a hybrid system that includes granular activated carbon (GAC) and ion exchange (IX) resin. GAC will remove PFAS (and other volatile organics) while IX will reduce concentrations of short-chain PFAS. 

The project will be fully financed through the Safe Drinking Water Loan Program, which is made possible through President Joe Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. With a total project cost of $5.9M, roughly half of the financing will be received as a grant (no repayment required) while the remainder will be a low-interest loan.

“Water utilities do not create PFAS contamination, but they are charged with the critically important job of providing safe drinking water,” remarked Mayor Rhodes-Conway. “That’s why I want to thank President Biden not only for enacting stronger PFAS standards, but also for making funding available for communities to address PFAS pollution.”

The EPA’s newly approved PFAS rules remove the uncertainty around what is believed to be a safe level of PFAS in drinking water and helps identify treatment goals for the proposed PFAS system at Well 15. The utility has proactively followed the rule development process regarding PFAS and has planned appropriately. Implementation of treatment at Well 15 highlights Madison’s commitment to providing safe, high-quality water to our community. 

Visit the Well 15 Project Website and sign up to receive email updates and alerts here. Please contact Madison Water Utility with any questions. 

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