The Biden-Harris Administration has announced it is proposing the first-ever national drinking water standard for six per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in the latest action under President Biden’s plan to combat PFAS pollution and Administrator Regan’s PFAS Strategic Roadmap. Through this action, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is taking a major step to protect public health from PFAS pollution, leveraging the latest science and complementing state efforts to limit PFAS by proposing to establish legally enforceable levels for six PFAS known to occur in drinking water.
This proposal builds on other key milestones to combat PFAS, including EPA’s proposal to designate two PFAS as CERCLA hazardous substances; enhancing data on PFAS under EPA’s National PFAS Testing Strategy and through nationwide sampling for 29 PFAS in public drinking water systems; using EPA’s Clean Water Act permitting and regulatory programs to reduce PFAS pollution in the environment from industry; and initiating the distribution of $10 billion in funding to address emerging contaminants under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL).
“Communities across this country have suffered far too long from the ever-present threat of PFAS pollution. That’s why President Biden launched a whole-of-government approach to aggressively confront these harmful chemicals, and EPA is leading the way forward,” said EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan. “EPA’s proposal to establish a national standard for PFAS in drinking water is informed by the best available science, and would help provide states with the guidance they need to make decisions that best protect their communities. This action has the potential to prevent tens of thousands of PFAS-related illnesses and marks a major step toward safeguarding all our communities from these dangerous contaminants.”
The proposal, if finalized, would regulate PFOA and PFOS as individual contaminants, and will regulate four other PFAS—PFNA, PFHxS, PFBS, and GenX Chemicals—as a mixture.
- PFOA and PFOS: EPA is proposing to regulate PFOA and PFOS at a level they can be reliably measured at 4 parts per trillion.
- PFNA, PFHxS, PFBS, and GenX Chemicals: EPA is also proposing a regulation to limit any mixture containing one or more of PFNA, PFHxS, PFBS, and/or GenX Chemicals. For these PFAS, water systems would use an established approach called a hazard index calculation, defined in the proposed rule, to determine if the combined levels of these PFAS pose a potential risk.
If finalized, the proposed regulation will require public water systems to monitor for these chemicals. It will also require systems to notify the public and reduce PFAS contamination if levels exceed the proposed regulatory standards. EPA anticipates that if fully implemented, the rule will, over time, prevent thousands of deaths and reduce tens of thousands of serious PFAS-attributable illnesses. This action establishes nationwide protection from PFAS pollution for all people, including environmental justice communities.
These actions represent a significant milestone for the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitments to combat PFAS pollution and safeguard drinking water. President Biden has secured historic funding to address emerging contaminants like PFAS, including $10 billion from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. In February 2023, EPA announced the availability of $2 billion from President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to address emerging contaminants, including PFAS, in drinking water across the country. These funds will promote access to safe and clean water in small, rural, and disadvantaged communities while supporting local economies.
EPA requests input on the proposal from all stakeholders, including the public, water system managers, and public health professionals. Comments may be submitted through the public docket, identified by Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OW-2022-0114, at regulations.gov.
For more information on this proposal, please visit EPA’s Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) webpage.