PFAS/PFOAS Information & Updates
WHAT is PFAS?
PFAS, or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, are a class of more than 5,000 chemical compounds. These substances have been manufactured by chemical companies and used for decades in products to repel water, grease, and oil. They are commonly found in various everyday items such as food packaging, waterproof clothing, non-stick cookware, carpets, plastics, dental floss, and some household cleaning products such as dishwasher and laundry detergents, and stain removers. While the production of two of the most common groups of these substances, PFOS (Perfluorooctane Sulfonate) and PFOA (Perfluorooctanoic Acid) has largely ceased, some of these substances are still used.
Initially developed in the 1940s, PFAS have been nicknamed "forever chemicals" since they are nearly indestructible. Research by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicates widespread exposure among the U.S. population. Scientific studies now link PFAS accumulation in the human body to various health issues. For more health-related information, contact the Florida Department of Health at 850-245-4240 or visit their website.
HOW DO PFAS GET IN DRINKING WATER?
Because of their widespread use, release, and disposal over the decades, PFAS substances show up virtually everywhere: in soil, water, air, the ocean and marine life that inhabit it, and even in rain fall. In turn, PFAS can be released into the sources of drinking water in a variety of ways such as:
- Industrial sites releasing the compounds into the water or air.
- Leaching from landfills and other disposal sites.
- When products or wastes containing PFAS are disposed of, used, or spilled on the ground or into or near rivers, lakes, aquifers, or wells.
- Through runoff of substances that contain PFAS.
PFAS REGULATION IN DRINKING WATER
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is taking steps toward addressing PFAS contamination in drinking water supplies due to health risks involved. In March 2023, the EPA proposed new National Primary Drinking Water Standards Regulations for six PFAS substances including PFOA and PFOS. These new standards will require drinking water providers to remove or reduce the levels of these substances in drinking water and are expected to be finalized by the end of 2023. Drinking water providers will then have to fully comply with these standards by December 2026.
Under the proposed regulations, public drinking water providers, like city or county water utilities, must test for and inform the public about the potential levels of these six PFAS substances in the community's drinking water. These providers must also ensure levels of these substances in drinking water are below the EPA's proposed limit of 4 parts per trillion, which is the lowest level these substances can be reliably measured.
Even though chemical companies are the source of these substances that contaminate drinking water, the responsibility falls on public drinking water providers to remove or reduce the levels of these substances. Due to the prevalence of these substances in the environment, the relatively recent awareness of health concerns associated with them, and the new science to detect these substances at very low levels, most drinking water providers will have to invest time and money to plan and build new treatment methods. In addition, significant nationwide investments by federal, state, and local agencies will be required to address this issue.
CITY OF BOCA RATON’S (THE CITY) ADVANCED PFAS TREATMENT TECHNOLOGIES
The City is committed to evaluating science-based methods to proactively remove or reduce PFAS in its drinking water ahead of the anticipated EPA requirements. In 2005, the City’s Utility Services Department constructed a state-of-the-art membrane softening treatment plant that utilizes advanced technology to treat the City’s drinking water which already includes the removal of PFAS substances. Additionally, the existing lime softening plant, in operation for over 50 years, will be enhanced in order to meet the new EPA regulations regarding PFAS reduction or removal in drinking water.
One of the City’s core values is providing customers with clean and safe drinking water that continuously exceeds regulatory standards while safeguarding public health and the environment. The City’s drinking water experts are continuing to research and collaborate with legislators, state, and local regulators as well as other drinking water quality experts in the PFAS field on how best to detect, control, remove, and further prevent PFAS contamination in the City’s drinking water.
The City's Utility Services Department continues to gather information related to PFAS substances in the City’s drinking water and will continue to provide updates as the EPA develops these regulations.