NRWA is gathering information across the country to see how many water systems have been affected or have growing concerns about perand polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).
What is PFAS?
PFAS are a group of manmade chemicals that includes PFOA, PFOS, GenX and many other chemicals. PFAS have been manufactured and used in a variety of industries around the globe, including in the United States since the 1940s. PFOA and PFOS have been the most extensively produced and studied of these chemicals. Both chemicals are very persistent in the environment and in the human body—meaning they don’t break down and they can accumulate over time. There is evidence that exposure to PFAS can lead to adverse human health effects.
What are the possible health effects?
Studies have shown an association between increased PFOA and PFOS blood levels and an increased risk for several health effects, including effects on the liver and the immune system, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, thyroid disorders, pregnancy-induced hypertension and preeclampsia and cancer (testicular and kidney).
Where can PFAS be found?
PFAS may be in drinking water, food, indoor dust, some consumer products and workplaces. Blood serum concentrations of PFASs are higher in workers and individuals living near facilities that use or produce PFASs than for the general population. Pathways of exposure include ingestion of food and water, use of consumer products or inhalation of PFAS-containing particulate matter (e.g., soils and dust) or vapor phase precursors.
What is being done?
On October 10, 2008, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) announced a negative regulatory determination for perchlorate in accordance with the SDWA, "The Agency determined that a national primary drinking water regulation (NPDWR) for perchlorate would not present a meaningful opportunity for health risk reduction for persons served by public water systems."
USEPA revised this determination on February 2011 with an affirmative conclusion. "EPA has determined that perchlorate meets SDWA’s criteria for regulating a contaminant—that is, perchlorate may have an adverse effect on the health of persons; perchlorate is known to occur or there is a substantial likelihood that perchlorate will occur in public water systems with a frequency and at levels of public health concern; and in the sole judgment of the Administrator, regulation of perchlorate in drinking water systems presents a meaningful opportunity for health risk reduction for persons served by public water systems. Therefore, EPA will initiate the process of proposing a national primary drinking water regulation (NPDWR) for perchlorate."
Eight years later, USEPA announced a PFAS Action Plan to respond to the public interest and utilized information received. This represents the first time EPA has built a multimedia, multi-program, national communication and research plan to address an emerging environmental challenge like PFAS.
EPA’s Action Plan identifies both short-term solutions for addressing these chemicals and long-term strategies that will help provide the tools and technologies that states, tribes and local communities need to provide clean and safe drinking water to their residents and to address PFAS at the source—including before it gets into the drinking water.
The USEPA Action Plan includes:
1 PFASs are persistent in the environment, meaning they are resistant to typical environmental degradation. Water providers suffer significant operation and maintenance costs because these chemicals never degrade, making it harder to get them out of water systems.
2 Blood serum concentrations of PFASs are higher in workers and individuals living near facilities that use or produce PFASs than for the general population. Pathways of exposure include ingestion of food and water, use of consumer products or inhalation of PFAS-containing particulate matter (e.g., soils and dust) or vapor phase precursors.
3 Studies have shown an association between increased PFOA and PFOS blood levels and an increased risk for several health effects, including effects on the liver and the immune system, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, thyroid disorders, pregnancy-induced hypertension and preeclampsia and cancer (testicular and kidney).
4 During manufacturing processes, PFASs are released to the air, water and soil in and around manufacturing facilities. Recently, PFOS and PFOA contamination has also been observed in facilities using PFAS products to manufacture other products (secondary manufacturing facilities).
5 PFAS has been detected in surface water and sediment downstream of production facilities and in wastewater treatment plant effluent and sewage sludge.
Together, these efforts will help EPA and its partners identify and better understand PFAS contaminants generally, clean up current PFAS contamination, prevent future contamination and effectively communicate risk with the public. To implement the Action Plan, EPA will continue to work in close coordination with multiple entities, including other federal agencies, states, tribes, local governments, water utilities, industry and the public.
In April 2019, a key component of the Action Plan, a draft interim guidance for addressing groundwater contaminated with perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and/or perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS), was released for public review and comment.
A month later, USEPA released the pre-publication version of the proposed perchlorate drinking water regulation. USEPA asked for comments on a proposed Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) and Maximum Contaminant Level Goal (MCLG) of 56 micrograms per liter. In addition, the Agency is seeking comment on three alternative regulatory options: an MCL and MCLG for perchlorate set at 18 micrograms per liter, an MCL and MCLG for perchlorate set at 90 micrograms per liter and withdrawal of the Agency’s determination to regulate perchlorate.
The rule denies any opportunity for a small community "variance," which is a compliance option authorized in the Safe Drinking Water Act that allows a small community that exceeds the MCL at a level that presents no harm to the public to have access to an affordable compliance option.
NRWA had asked EPA to clarify the "intelligible principle" used by the Agency in implementing the decision to select perchlorate as a regulation. The proposal does not include any articulated "intelligible principle" for how EPA decided to select perchlorate for regulation. The proposed rule does not explain what principle EPA relied on to determine how to select perchlorate for a SDWA regulation.
What you can do now?
NRWA is bringing together utility systems from across the country that have concerns or have been affected by PFAS contamination. NRWA has set up a page on its website, NRWA.org/initiatives/PFAS, for systems to enter their information. This information will allow NRWA to arrange a free evaluation of the system and provide more details about efforts to recover costs for remediation and treatment from PFAS contamination.
Visit nrwa.org/initiatives/pfas to learn more and be a part of future efforts to recoup costs from PFAS contamination.
North Carolina Rural Water Association Executive Director Daniel Wilson was elected President of the Association Executives of North Carolina (AENC) at AENC's Annual Business Meeting held in Charlotte, NC on July 22, 2019.
Established in 1955, AENC strives to promote and improve professionalism and effectiveness of trade, service and professional associations. AENC accomplishes this by providing opportunities for career and leadership development, expanding and strengthening diversity amongst association professionals, advancing public understanding of the importance of associations, and providing opportunities that promote mutually supportive and beneficial relationships between association professionals and providers to the industry.
The members of AENC lead organizations that represent a wide variety of industries
and interest areas all across North Carolina. In service to AENC members, Mr. Wilson
will work with the Board of Directors and committees to advance the mission and
strategic plan of the organization.
Following his election, Mr. Wilson addressed the AENC members gathered at the
annual meeting in Charlotte NC. In a heartfelt speech, he promised to "give the people what they want" during his time as AENC president and went on to thank his family, friends and NC Rural Water Association for their continued support.
Daniel Wilson has been Executive Director of the North Carolina Rural Water
Association since 2007. He has a BS in Civil Engineering from UNCC and an MBA from
ECU. He is a licensed Professional Engineer and a Certified Association Executive. In
his free time, he enjoys spending time with his family on the beaches of North Carolina near his home in Wilmington.
Today, people across the United States will celebrate the founding of our nation, most with some combination of barbecue, parades, flags, family and fireworks. The Rural Water Family prides itself on both its love of country and dedication to community. The efforts of the water industry often go overlooked, but before this holiday season, take a moment to consider that our Independence Day Celebrations would look much different without Rural Water.
One of the hallmarks of Independence Day celebrations are fireworks displays. The American Pyrotechnics Association estimates that more than 14,000 professional firework displays light the skies on July 4. Another 238 million pounds of amateur fireworks are launched from backyards, parks and streets across the country. The same water utilities that provide quality drinking water are also the primary source of water for fire fighters to combat the estimated 16,000 fires started by fireworks every year.
Benchmarks vary by jurisdiction, but one standard requires water systems be able to supply an extra 250 gallons per minute over the utility’s maximum daily rate, sustained for at least two hours. That’s the rough equivalent of the daily water use of the average house every minute. Rural Water professionals make roughly 30,000 on-site technical assistance visits annually, that include everything from hands-on repairs and leak detection to managerial assistance and rate studies. Rural Water also trains over 100,000 utility personnel every year to ensure communities can provide both the quality of water necessary for drinking and also the quantity needed for fire protection.
Many people will choose to celebrate Independence Day at a lake, river or outdoor location. AAA estimates that at least 42 million people will travel over 50 miles to celebrate Fourth of July, and many of them will do so at lakes and rivers. Lake Mead, by itself, is expected to host over 100,000 visitors for Independence Day, according to the National Park Service.
The lakes and streams that host these Independence Day celebrations are protected by Wastewater Operations Specialists and Source Water Protection Specialists across the country. Wastewater treatment prevents gallons of waste and sewage from pouring into lakes, rivers and streams every day. Rural Water make roughly 20,000 on-site technical assistance visits a year to wastewater systems to help them maintain proper function. Rural Water Source Water Protection Specialists also created plans that provide additional protection from “non-point sources” that include runoff, drainage and seepage. These efforts help preserve the environment and keep lakes, rivers and streams safe for swimming, boating and fishing.
Rural Water also helps preserve the American cookout. Agriculture is one of the largest consumers of water and it is an industry overwhelmingly located in rural areas. Access to clean, reliable, and affordable water helps produce the 150 million hotdogs, 190 million pounds of beef and 700 million pounds of chicken consumed on Fourth of July.
The North Carolina Rural Water Association Board and Staff wishes you all a safe and happy Independence Day!!
This is a reprint from NRWA from 2018 by Carol Booth NRWA .
This year marked my twentieth NCRWA Annual Conference and Exhibition, and throughout those events, I have experienced a wide array of bumblings, equipment malfunctions, ghostly happenings in classrooms, strange beings wandering the hallways, and equipment disappearances. I learned throughout the years to just expect the unexpected and try to go with it, and solve as quickly as possible whatever the problem happens to be. There are more employees this year than any other, so understandably thanks to hard work on everyone’s part, things seemed to go about as smoothly as I can remember them going, that is except for a couple of probably unnoticed events, and if I don’t write at least one down, I am afraid it will pass into oblivion.
As in past years, I worked on the golf course helping to set up and get players registered, then I usually take a cart and cover half of the course, taking pictures of the players and making sure everything is going smoothly. This year our Director, Daniel Wilson, was situated out on one of the holes that was sponsored by one of our vendors, without a golf cart, meeting each of the players and taking a shot with each team as they played through. My travel through that half of the course took me to the hole that Daniel was manning. While waiting for players to come through and taking a few pictures, Daniel and I chatted a little, and soon I started to move on. When I asked if he needed anything, he said “no, just don’t leave me out here.” I went back to the clubhouse and had some lunch and waited for everything to wind down. I know that one other employee went out to pick up Daniel, but he wasn’t ready to come back in yet. I had a conversation with another employee and we reasoned that when the guys went out to pick up the sponsor signs, they would pick up Daniel also, so I helped get everything wrapped up at the clubhouse, never gave it another thought. Back at my room, I had the sort of half thought, I hope Daniel didn’t get left on the golf course.
Well, you guessed it. When I saw Daniel later that night I jokingly said to him, “Glad to see you here. I was hoping you didn’t get left out on the golf course.” To hear him tell the story gave me a great laugh, and he was a good sport to repeat it. You see, I guess he hadn’t had enough golf for the day, so as the teams started to dwindle down and no one else was in site, he wandered to other holes to hit a few more shots. Well, he wandered out of site of the sign that was posted on the hole where he had been stationed, and when he returned, the sign was gone. Employees had come through and picked up the sign and never saw Daniel, so he did get left. He wound up walking with his clubs back to his car, so not much damage done except for the fact that it makes for a great story that will probably follow him always, especially since I’m having it published on our blog.