| AWWA testimony: PFAS regulation should emphasize science, source water protection
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AWWA testimony: PFAS regulation should emphasize science, source water protection

Federal regulation for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) should be grounded in science and prioritize source water protection, the American Water Works Association (AWWA) stated during recent testimony on Capitol Hill.

Tracy Mehan testifying before the Senate Environment and Public Works CommiteeSpeaking before the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works on June 9, Tracy Mehan (pictured right), AWWA executive director of government affairs, said AWWA recognizes PFAS as a growing concern that merits swift and serious attention.

“The Safe Drinking Water Act mandates a consistent, transparent and science-based process for considering new regulations,” said Mehan, a former state and federal regulator. “AWWA supports following the steps outlined in the Safe Drinking Water Act to assure PFAS risks are effectively and efficiently reduced from our drinking water.”

In related news, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced on June 10 the three actions listed below to better protect communities from PFAS pollution. 

  • Issuing a proposed rule to gather comprehensive data on more than 1,000 PFAS manufactured in the United States
  • Withdrawing guidance that weakened EPA’s July 2020 Significant New Use Rule (SNUR) restricting certain long-chain PFAS
  • Publishing a final rule that officially incorporates three additional PFAS into the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI)

More information is available on EPA’s website.

During Mehan’s Senate testimony, he stated that source water protection is the best way to keep drinking water safe for consumers. AWWA has urged EPA to utilize existing laws, such as the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), to understand and control PFAS risks before introducing harmful substances into commerce. AWWA also believes that PFAS producers -- not consumers or water utilities -- should be liable for cleaning up drinking water and the environment.

Mehan stated that in addition to SDWA, TSCA also helps protect public drinking water by empowering the EPA to manage naturally occurring and human-made risks to drinking water. Utilizing these existing authorities, AWWA believes that EPA should:

  • Provide a report in one year describing the location of PFAS production, import, processing and use in the United States for individual PFAS compounds based on data collected through TSCA. This report should be updated every two years.
  • Describe actions taken or planned under TSCA to restrict PFAS production, use and import, and communicate the associated risks to the public.
  • Describe actions taken by other federal agencies regarding PFAS, specifically the departments of Defense and Health and Human Services.
  • Provide Congress with an annual report on statutory and non-statutory barriers encountered in collecting and distributing PFAS information to inform risk management decisions by EPA, states and local risk managers.

Mehan’s testimony also stressed the importance of more research before EPA determines standards for PFAS. "Additional funding for research is needed to properly assess and address the human health effects of exposure to PFAS; identify analytical methods that quantify PFAS levels in source water, drinking water and wastewater; and further develop technologies to cost-effectively remove PFAS compounds to levels that do not pose a human health concern,” he said.

Mehan discussed the need for proper funding to conduct the necessary research in the following areas:

  • Health effects data on which PFAS compounds pose a human health risk (and there are more than 3,000 PFAS compounds)
  • Analytical methods to quantify levels of PFAS compounds in environmental samples (natural waters, wastewaters, soil, finished water)
  • Technologies to cost-effectively remove problematic PFAS compounds from drinking water and wastewaters to levels that do not pose public health concerns

More than 25 states have formal policy statements on PFAS management in drinking water and even more have policies aimed at controlling the release of PFAS from contaminated sites. Six states currently have maximum contaminant levels in place for PFAS, and other states have MCLs in development. 

“AWWA stresses the importance of allowing EPA to conduct the appropriate research outlined above using the powers afforded it in TSCA, SDWA, and other statutes to best inform the regulatory process,” Mehan stated.

More information and resources about PFAS are available on AWWA’s PFAS resource page