State DEP announces sampling plan to identify possible water contamination
HARRISBURG — As a part of the Wolf Administration’s efforts to address contamination from per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) announced a statewide sampling plan to identify impacted drinking water supplies.
The sampling plan will test water taken from more than 300 public water supplies (PWS) with elevated potential for contamination, based on proximity to common sources of PFAS, such as military bases, fire training sites, landfills, and manufacturing facilities. The sampling plan will begin collecting information in May 2019, and the first planned phase will last approximately one year.
“Addressing PFAS in drinking water is one of the top priorities for DEP,” said DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell. “DEP is taking unprecedented steps to address PFAS, including beginning the process to set a Maximum Contaminant Level for the first time, and this sampling plan will shed light on the extent of PFAS contamination in Pennsylvania.”
DEP announced that it is beginning the process of setting a Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) for PFAS after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (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.
“DEP will not hesitate to step up when the federal government fails to,” said McDonnell.
The sampling plan will be discussed at the next PFAS Action Team meeting, scheduled for April 15, 2019, at the Abington Senior High School. Governor Tom Wolf created the PFAS Action Team in September 2018 to address PFAS contaminants across the commonwealth and protect Pennsylvania residents.
The sampling plan will not be the first time that Pennsylvania PWSs will have been tested for PFAS. In 2012 EPA had sample results collected from 175 systems under the “unregulated contaminant monitoring rule” (UCMR) which collects data on chemicals suspected to be present in water, but do not have set regulations. In the third iteration of the UCMR, EPA sampled for six PFAS chemicals, including PFOS and PFOA. These chemicals now have an EPA health advisory limit of 70 parts per trillion (ppt). In Pennsylvania, this sampling included some of the largest systems, including Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, both of which were found to be below the 70 ppt level.
Source: Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection