Water utilities should prepare for media inquiries about per- and polyfluorinated substances (PFAS) next week, as AWWA expects the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to issue new drinking water health advisories (HAs) for several PFAS. AWWA anticipates EPA will release HAs with revised levels for perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS), as well as new advisories for perfluorobutane sulfonate (PFBS), and hexafluoropropylene oxide (HFPO or GenX). When EPA released PFOA and PFOS health advisories in 2016 the agency also recommended actions to be taken , which included public communication and use of alternative water supplies. It is not clear what recommendations for action EPA will release next week. EPA describes the purpose of HAs as “to provide information on contaminants that can cause human health effects and are known or anticipated to occur in drinking water. EPA's health advisories are non-enforceable and non-regulatory and provide technical information to states agencies and other public health officials on health effects, analytical methodologies, and treatment technologies associated with drinking water contamination.” While HAs are not federal regulatory limits, they are often referenced by state regulators and the media as “bright lines” above which there is the potential for harm to drinking water consumers. This poses a risk communication challenge for water utilities. Trending in an Instant : A Risk Communication Guide for Water Utilities has tips and messaging templates that may be helpful. If EPA bases the PFOA and PFOS advisory levels on the same analyses presented to the EPA Science Advisory Board (SAB) last December, then the resulting levels will be in part per quadrillion levels, which are not detectable by current approved analytical methods. Current analytical method reporting level for these four PFAS are at single-digit, nanogram-per-liter levels. The most recent EPA assessment for GenX provides a basis for the GenX level to be lower than current levels set by states regarding GenX. EPA presented the SAB several approaches for adding PFAS together when evaluating health risk. It is possible that EPA will use one of those approaches to inform recommended actions based on these advisories. In comments submitted to EPA on May 17, 2021, AWWA raised concern that EPA risk communication efforts were currently inadequate and were essential to issuing drinking water health advisories, especially for PFAS. EPA communication materials are limited. Risk communication materials include: PFAS Risk Communications Hub PFAS — Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances Drinking water HAs are calculated using the same methodology as maximum contaminant level goals (MCLGs). While the release of advisory levels for PFBS and GenX were anticipated based on EPA’s PFAS Strategic Roadmap , the PFOA and PFOS health advisories were not, and precede the maximum contaminant level goals (MCLGs) to be proposed this fall when the agency proposes a PFAS drinking water standard. The health advisories will likely generate media inquiries. In preparation for these inquiries, AWWA recommends systems: Review and be prepared to discuss PFOA, PFOS, GenX and PFBS levels in their sources of supply and finished water Be prepared to describe the steps your utility has taken and plans to take to respond to observed occurrence Acknowledge the concern that all contaminants present a potential risk to safe drinking water. Emphasize to media and consumers that you are committed to protecting public health. Make clear that your water meets federal and state standards for safety (clearly explaining any SDWA violations). Focus on how water risks are assessed and managed, using the rigorous scientific framework of the SDWA. Invite media and consumers to learn more about your local water quality by providing them with consumer confidence reports and other web-based information or connecting them to the appropriate utility contact. If possible, contact your local health department and/or a trusted academic voice to collaborate on a response. AWWA has a suite of resources available on its PFAS resource page , including: Trending in an Instant : A Risk Communication Guide for Water Utilities PFAS Technical Report Set , including a “ Source Water Evaluation Guide for PFAS ” The AWWA Briefing on PFAS includes the Association’s four guiding principles for PFAS regulation. They include: Commitment to public health protection Fidelity to scientific process Protection of source Investment in research AWWA recommends members review for accuracy currently posted PFAS occurrence data on federal, state, and utility websites (e.g., Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule, state PFAS monitoring datasets, etc.) relevant to your system. If local PFAS occurrence data are not already posted on the system’s website, then do so to demonstrate transparency, explain the purpose of the data collection reflected, and properly characterize results. Communications questions should be directed to Greg Kail , director of communications, while regulatory questions should be directed to Steve Via , director of federal relations.