The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources’ (DHHR) Bureau for Public Health and the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) today announced a new working group to collaborate with select public water systems to develop plans to treat drinking water for perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS), part of a large group of lab-made chemicals known as perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today proposed to regulate PFOA and PFOS at a Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) where they can be reliably measured, at 4 parts per trillion. In addition to these two MCLs, EPA is proposing to address four additional PFAS (GenX, PFBS, PFNA, and PFHxS) as a mixture using a Hazard Index.
“At the Governor’s direction, in an effort of collaboration, our state partners proactively reached out to water systems in West Virginia in preparation of these revised EPA guidelines and have formed a work group to address any potential concerns,” said Dr. Matt Christiansen, State Health Officer and Commissioner of DHHR’s Bureau for Public Health.
The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), under the direction of DHHR, tested the raw-water (pre-treated water) for 279 public water systems across West Virginia. In the USGS report, of the 279 systems, thirty-seven were identified to have detectable PFOA and PFOS in their raw-water source. Additional tests by USGS are pending on the finished drinking water for the 37 systems and will be shared when finalized.
The EPA recently announced that West Virginia will receive $18.9 million in federal funding over two years to address emerging contaminants like PFAS in drinking water. That funding can be used for a wide-range of activities, including research and testing, treatment, source water activities, restructuring, consolidating, or creating water systems, technical assistance, and more. DHHR will be coordinating with the impacted communities to administer the funding.
“A collaborative approach between DHHR, DEP, and our public water systems will be the most effective way to treat PFAS in our state,” said DEP Secretary Harold Ward. “By working together, we can leverage our respective strengths and expertise to protect the health and well-being of our citizens and the environment.”
PFAS are chemicals used in thousands of applications throughout the industrial, food, and textile industries and are an ingredient in some firefighting foams, food packaging, cleaning products, and various other household items. They are classified as possible carcinogens and may create other adverse health effects. Exposure to PFAS over a long period of time may lead to negative health effects.