28 orgs call on DEP to ‘strengthen’ proposed PFAS rule ahead of April 27 deadline

Several states, including California, Colorado, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina and Vermont have adopted or proposed limits for PFAS in drinking water

By: - April 20, 2022 3:45 pm

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A group of more than two dozen statewide advocacy groups submitted a letter to state environmental officials this week, asking them to adopt a more stringent set of guidelines for protecting Pennsylvania’s drinking water from commonly found, man-made PFAS or per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances. 

The four-page letter delivered to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) on Wednesday, was signed by 28 advocacy groups, including the Conservation Voters of Pennsylvania, Clean Water Action, PennEnvironment and the Pennsylvania chapter of the Sierra Club.

It includes recommendations for expanded monitoring, and private well protection measures, as well as stricter contamination limits for the department’s proposed rule, which would set a maximum contamination limit (MCL) of 14 parts per-trillion (ppt) for perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and an MCL of 18 ppt for perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS) substances. 

In the letter, the groups called the proposed limits “flawed,” adding that “the PFOA MCL should be 1 ppt but not exceed 6 ppt and the PFOS MCL should be no greater than 5 ppt. When PFOA and PFOS are found combined in water, their combined concentration should be no higher than 13 ppt.”

“Access to safe drinking water is vital to maintaining healthy and sustainable communities,” the letter reads. “It’s also an environmental right recognized in the Pennsylvania Constitution. These combined with our knowledge that the major exposure route for PFAS in Pennsylvania is through drinking water, makes this rulemaking extremely important to Pennsylvania’s future.”

PFAS contaminants have been linked to a variety of health concerns in humans, including fertility issues, low birth weights, and an increased risk of cancer, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

While there are currently no federal standards for regulating the substances, several states, including California, Colorado, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina and Vermont have adopted or proposed limits for PFAS in drinking water, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. 

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“We here in Pennsylvania can’t wait around for the federal government to take action that they have been promising for decades,” Tracey Carluccio, deputy director for the Delaware Riverkeeper Network, told journalists during a virtual briefing Wednesday. 

In 2018, Gov. Tom Wolf created the PFAS Action team through executive order, in an attempt to address PFAS contaminants in Pennsylvania.

A year later, in June 2019, a statewide sampling of public water systems began, which “did not indicate widespread PFAS contamination,” according to DEP. 

Carluccio said that while “DEP has known about the dangers of PFAS for many years,” action on the matter has been “excruciatingly slow.”

State Sen. Carolyn Comitta, of Chester County, who’s the ranking Democrat on the Senate Environmental Resources & Energy Committee, joined the advocates’ call for the proposal rules to be strengthened. 

“Today we know more about PFAS compounds than ever before,” Comitta said, adding that ‘there is much more that can be done.” 

Comitta said that while there is “bipartisan support” in the General Assembly for addressing PFAS contamination, the DEP proposal is an “important place to start.”

The deadline for public comment on the proposal is April 27.

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Cassie Miller
Cassie Miller

A native Pennsylvanian, Cassie Miller worked for various publications across the Midstate before joining the team at the Pennsylvania Capital-Star. In her previous roles, she has covered everything from local sports to the financial services industry. Miller is currently pursuing her master’s degree in professional journalism at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. In addition to her role at the Capital-Star, Miller enjoys working on her independent zines, Dead Air and Infrared.

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