The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) has announced a series of steps to further protect Arizona’s drinking water from the contamination caused by per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).
“Our commitment to protecting Arizona’s most precious resource from toxic contamination is unwavering,” Director Misael Cabrera said. “We are working closely with the state’s more than 1,500 public water systems and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to ensure that public health remains our top priority.”
In its latest action under the agency’s PFAS Strategic Roadmap, EPA released drinking water health advisories for PFAS. EPA’s lifetime health advisories levels are conservative, designed to protect sensitive populations, and therefore all people, during all life stages from adverse health effects resulting from exposure to these PFAS in drinking water. These advisories also take into account other potential sources of exposure to PFAS beyond drinking water (for example, food, air, consumer products, etc.), which provides an additional layer of conservatism.
Non-enforceable and non-regulatory, EPA’s PFAS health advisories are meant to help inform the public, while EPA continues its work to set a national drinking water standard for these chemicals. EPA is expected to propose national standards this fall, which could be finalized in late 2023. As an emerging contaminant, data on PFAS exposure are limited and in 2023, EPA will require public water systems serving more than 3,300 customers to test for PFAS as part of the fifth Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule (UCMR).
ADEQ said it is committed to ensuring that all public water systems in Arizona are tested for PFAS – regardless of the number of customers they serve. Beginning in July, ADEQ will conduct PFAS sampling for all public water systems in Arizona that have not yet been tested for PFAS either under UCMR requirements or through ADEQ’s PFAS ongoing screening.
To assist Arizona’s public water systems, ADEQ is preparing comprehensive guidance and tools that we will distribute to public water systems in July to provide information and resources for PFAS sampling, and treatment and funding options.
The security and availability of healthy drinking water for Arizonans is a top priority for ADEQ and they have already taken proactive actions to monitor and mitigate PFAS in drinking water and groundwater, prevent PFAS contamination and keep our communities and stakeholders informed. Some of these key actions follow:
Assessing, testing Arizona public water systems for PFAS
- In 2018 ADEQ developed and has since been conducting a PFAS screening program for high-risk public water systems with wells near areas of potential PFAS sources – industrial and manufacturing facilities, firefighting training facilities, airports and military sites.
- As part of ADEQ’s ongoing statewide assessment of PFAS in drinking water, ADEQ has identified and sampled more than 150 high-risk public water systems specifically for two PFAS compounds (PFOA/PFOS).
- ADEQ also has reviewed PFAS data that certain Arizona public water systems have reported to EPA under the UCMR requirements for systems that serve more than 3,300 customers, as well as any other available data public water systems are able to provide.
- Based on available data for over 230 Arizona public water systems, 49 have detected PFOA/PFOS above EPA’s new health advisories, whereas only 12 of these systems had PFOA/PFOS higher than EPA’s former 2016 HAL for PFOA/PFOS. All but one public water system with known PFOA/PFOS above the former EPA HAL of 70 ppt already has voluntarily worked with ADEQ 11 of 12 to reduce PFAS exposure to customers by installing treatment or discontinuing use of the impacted well. ADEQ is currently working to notify customers of the one remaining small public water system and to assist the system with pursuing treatment options.
- Based on available data for 123 public water systems ADEQ sampled for GenX and PFBS PFAS compounds, all systems sample results were lower than the new EPA HALs.
- For the remaining 37 public water systems with PFOA/PFOS detections, ADEQ is contacting the public water systems and discussing EPA’s recommendations that they take steps to inform customers, undertake additional sampling to assess the level, scope and source of contamination, and examine steps to limit exposure.
- There are no known manufacturers of PFAS chemicals in Arizona. Research also indicates PFAS compounds were not used on large-scale industrial applications and tend to be localized near areas of potential frequent use. To date, the largest PFAS impacts in Arizona are from the historic use of legacy Aqueous Fire Fighting Foam (AFFF) at military bases for fire-fighting training and aircraft crashes. The Department of Defense has identified 12 military bases in Arizona with drinking water PFAS levels higher than the EPA HAL.
- Effective January 2020, Arizona has banned the discharge or use of class B firefighting foam that contains intentionally added PFAS chemicals for training or testing purposes unless required by law or done in a facility with proper containment, treatment and disposal measures.
Educating communities, stakeholders
- Established the Arizona PFAS Resources Information Clearinghouse – an online resource about current scientific, regulatory and legal developments related to PFAS and AFFF which may contain PFAS. This online resource includes guidance concerned citizens can follow to test their water for PFAS.
- Advised fire departments, local emergency planning committees and relevant industries about PFAS adverse impacts to public health and the environment.
- Reached out to Federal Aviation Administration Part 139 airports to request they work with us to identify locations where AFFF containing PFAS may have been used, discontinue the use of AFFF containing PFAS during fire training exercises and take extreme care to minimize release of AFFF containing PFAS into the environment.
- For community members who want to know if their drinking water has been tested for PFAS, contact your local water provider. If PFAS has been detected in your water, consider actions that may reduce your exposure, including installing a home filter or using an alternative water source, if possible. EPA will be hosting a webinar on June 23 at noon EST to provide the public with more information about its actions. Learn more or register for EPA’s event.
- While ADEQ does not regulate private wells, if you own a private well, EPA recommends learning more about how to protect and maintain your well for all contaminants of concern. For information on private wells visit: www.epa.gov/safewater.
Protecting Arizona’s surface waters
- ADEQ recently sampled discharges from 38 wastewater treatment plants across the state for PFAS. The data from these samples, taken at large and small treatment plants that service industrial, commercial and residential waste streams, are expected to be available in the coming weeks.
ADEQ said it is committed to these and other ongoing actions to protect Arizonans and our environment from PFAS impacts. ADEQ currently is mapping all available PFAS data for drinking water, groundwater, wastewater treatment plant discharges, surface water and soil testing in Arizona and will be making these data available to the public via an interactive online map later this year. ADEQ also is working with researchers at the University of Arizona and Northern Arizona University as part of the recently announced Regents’ Grants to create cost-effective technologies to measure and remove PFAS compounds from our water.