On October 18th, the 50th anniversary of the passage of the Clean Water Act, Waterkeeper Alliance is releasing an unprecedented new report that analyzes the results of a recent nationwide study you participated in to investigate the prevalence of per- and polyfluoroalkylsubstances (PFAS) in American waterways. The results of this first-of-its-kind survey of PFAS pollution of a select subset of U.S. surface waters are staggering and a blaring wakeup call: 83% of the waters tested across the country were found to be contaminated by dangerous PFAS.
This surface water survey by Waterkeeper Alliance reveals that the scale of dangerous per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in surface waters across the country are staggering and a blaring wakeup call. A total of 113 local Waterkeepers surveyed 114 waterways across 34 states and the District of Columbia (D.C.) with 94 participating Waterkeeper groups in 29 states and D.C. confirming the presence of PFAS in their waterways. Gathered from a subset of U.S. surface waters, these findings are an important step toward filling in a major data gap and validate the Alliance’s call to EPA for increased and widespread monitoring to gain a complete picture of PFAS contamination in all watersheds across the country.
Drinking water utilities and wastewater treatment plants are poorly equipped to cope with the onslaught of these chemicals and require financial assistance as upgrades required for removal are extremely expensive. By the end of 2023, EPA is expected to set drinking water standards for PFOA and PFOS that will require U.S. drinking water utilities, many of which are already in need of substantial infrastructure repairs or replacement due to decades of funding shortfalls, to undertake costly upgrades even as polluting and profit-making industries continue to contaminate public trust waters without recourse. A continued failure of regulatory agencies to prevent polluting industries from dumping PFAS into their waste streams, or to hold them responsible for cleanup costs, means that the financial burden is passed down to water and wastewater utilities and, by extension, everyday people, who pay for these services.
Despite the serious health risks, there are currently no universal, science-based limits on the various PFAS chemicals in the United States. For many PFAS chemicals, the EPA has not even set a health advisory limit that would give the public a baseline to determine what amount of PFAS is unhealthy in drinking water. In most cases, the EPA is not doing adequate monitoring for these chemicals, which is why these findings are so unique and important. This data plainly demonstrates that Congress and EPA must act with urgency to control persistent PFAS contamination across the country. The current lack of oversight puts the health and safety of communities and ecosystems across the nation at risk and results in costly cleanup and treatment activities to remove PFAS contamination after it has occurred.
To start tackling this crisis, Waterkeeper Alliance urges Congress to pass the Clean Water Standards for PFAS Act of 2022 to reduce the levels of PFAS entering our waters in the first place. It is also essential for EPA to prioritize bipartisan infrastructure funding for coordinated national monitoring and adoption of regulatory standards for PFAS, including new rules that would designate these chemicals as hazardous substances, and require enforceable limits for these pollutants under the Clean Water Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act. The scale of this problem is greater than could be imagined - it is time for the federal government to act quickly to protect the health of our families, our communities, and ecosystems.
For more information on PFAS and to read the full report, go to: