HARRISBURG, PA — As a result of Governor Tom Wolf’s executive order to address Perfluoroalkyl and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) in drinking water, the Wolf Administration this week released the complete and final list of results of samples collected from public water systems. The results do not indicate widespread PFAS contamination.
In September 2018, the governor signed an executive order establishing the PFAS Action Team, moving Pennsylvania to the forefront of states taking proactive steps to address PFAS and other contaminants.
“Sampling allows us to gain a better understanding of the prevalence of PFAS within the commonwealth,” said Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Secretary Patrick McDonnell. “These results will help us determine how to further address this emerging environmental issue, including developing an appropriate metric to remediate and protect our public water systems.”
The statewide sampling plan began in June 2019. Samples collected by DEP were analyzed by an accredited laboratory for six PFAS chemicals: Perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS), Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), Perfluorononanoic acid (PFNA), Perfluorohexane sulfonate (PFHxS), Perfluoroheptanoic acid (PFHpA), and Perfluorobutane sulfonate (PFBS). Sampling was temporarily suspended from March 2020 to July 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting business closures and travel restrictions established under the Governor’s Emergency Declaration. Sampling resumed in August 2020 under an approved health and safety plan. Sample collection activities were completed by the end of March 2021.
For the sampling conducted beginning in 2020, the analysis method used was changed from EPA Method 537 (detects only 6 PFAS) to EPA Method 537.1 because this method can detect 18 PFAS. This change was made in order to generate additional occurrence data, so samples were recollected from all of the facilities that were sampled in 2019.
DEP identified 493 public water system sources as potential sampling sites because they meet the criterion of being located within a half mile of a potential source of PFAS contamination, such as military bases, fire training sites, landfills, and manufacturing facilities. Of those, DEP tested 372 targeted sites and 40 sites that were not located within a half mile of a potential source of PFAS contamination to establish a baseline.
Of the PFAS chemicals sampled, PFOS and PFOA were most common, being detected at 103 and 112 sites, respectively.
Of the sites with detections, only eight PFAS were detected. The eight PFAS that were detected are: PFOS, PFOA PFNA, PFHxS, PFHpA, PFBS, Perfluorohexanoic acid (PFHxA), and Perfluoroundecanoic acid (PFUnA). Of the 412 total samples, two of the results were above the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Health Advisory Level (HAL) of 70 parts per trillion (ppt) for the combined concentrations of PFOS and PFOA: State of the Art, Inc. in Centre County, and Saegertown Borough in Crawford County. Results were non-detect for the other 10 PFAS that were tested.
Led by the Action Team, the administration has taken steps to identify and address contamination and establish a cleanup plan that will address PFAS contamination in Pennsylvania including:
- Beginning the process of setting a Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) for PFAS after the EPA did not commit to doing so in February 2019. This will mark the first time that DEP has set an MCL rather than adopting standards set by the federal government, as it has with all other regulated drinking water contaminants.
- Developing a cleanup standard for PFAS soil contamination.
- Hiring a toxicologist at the Pennsylvania Department of Health and securing additional toxicology services through a contract to move forward with setting a state limit for PFAS in drinking water.
- Taking steps to address remediation of the chemicals by working to change groundwater and soil remediation standards for three PFAS compounds.
- Taking steps to assist communities and private well owners if PFAS contamination is above the EPA HAL of 70 ppt.
- Developing uniform, science-based operating procedures to guide the identification and assessment of commercial and industrial properties that have contaminated private and/or public drinking water sources.
- Approving more than $20 million in grants to address PFAS groundwater contamination.
- Testing all water supplies to Pennsylvania Army National Guard facilities and state-owned homes for veterans for PFAS. While all sample results returned with non-detectable levels of PFAS, the water wells will continue to be monitored.
- Taking steps at the Horsham Air Guard Station to ensure adequate treatment of affected public drinking water supplies to the nearby Horsham Township in Montgomery County and Warminster and Warrington townships in Bucks County.
Full results and additional information about PFAS can be found at www.dep.pa.gov/pfas.
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