Concerns Regarding PFAS Chemicals in Drinking Water

Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) are a group of chemicals that are the focus of concern across the country. PFAS persist in the environment for a long time and can accumulate in the human body. There is limited research on the health effects of PFAS, but existing research indicates possibly serious health effects, such as cancer, birth defects, and high cholesterol levels. PFAS has also been found across the country in many drinking water systems.

PFAS are man-made chemicals that have been manufactured and used since the 1940s.   They have been used in nonā€stick coatings, waterproof or water repellent fabrics, shampoos, paints, fast food packaging, and firefighting foams. There has been widespread use throughout the country, leading to accumulation in the environment and drinking water sources.

Currently the federal government has not set any enforceable federal drinking water limits for PFAS. It is expected that enactment of such legislation could be slow. Therefore, some states have begun creating their own laws to address PFAS in drinking water. However, because of the limited research what concentrations of PFAS are safe, such regulations may not adequately address health concerns.

There are some treatment technologies that have demonstrated PFAS removal from drinking water. These include activated carbon, anion exchange, and high-pressure membrane filtration. However, removal efficiency can vary, depending on the water characteristics.

The American Water Works Association (AWWA) has created several fact sheets with information about PFAS that can be found at this link https://www.awwa.org/Resources-Tools/Resource-Topics/PFAS. This includes information on sources of PFAS, possible treatment technologies, and monitoring/sampling/analysis of PFAS https://www.awwa.org/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=X3NIs3-j1sc%3d&portalid=0.

Utilities that are concerned about PFAS in their drinking water can have their source water and finished water tested for concentrations of some PFAS substances. Engineers at FOX are ready to assist you in providing safe and clean drinking water. If utilities have any questions or would like assistance regarding PFAS in their drinking water, please contact Lance Aldrich, PE, BCEE (lja@foxeng.com) or Adib Amini, Ph.D.  (aa@foxeng.com).

FOX Engineering is an environmental engineering firm based in Ames, Iowa. We specialize in water and wastewater solutions for our diverse municipal and industrial clients. Our work varies in size and scope and can be found throughout the Midwest and beyond.