Working in the water industry, perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (known as PFAS) is a topic that we are watching closely. As data is revealed and further scientific testing proves the implications of PFAS on human health, everyone has been at the edge of their seats waiting for an answer on what limits are acceptable. Setting PFAS limits have been delayed by both federal and local governments which has been unsettling. Ultimately, the more we know about PFAS, the more our communities are alarmed at the chemical's presence in our soil, clothing, and lastly - the water we drink.
Our business is located in Wisconsin and our team members have been intensely following PFAS and the long-awaited regulation of PFAS in water. Between watching both local and federal limits being proposed, anyone in the industry can be confused. It is also good to note that limits are always subject to change until it is determined if each state or the federal government has the final say in setting PFAS limits.
For instance, on June 15, 2022, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released drinking water health advisories pertaining to PFAS chemicals. The EPA had previously set PFAS limits at 70 ppt for drinking water (according to a press release in December 2019), but continued their scientific research to develop the following PFAS limits:
PFOS Interim Updated Lifetime Health Advisory = 2E-08 mg/L or 0.02 ppt (EPA 2022b)
PFOA Interim Updated Lifetime Health Advisory = 4E-09 mg/L or 0.004 ppt (EPA 2022a)
GenX Chemicals Final Lifetime Health Advisory = 0.00001 mg/L or 10 ppt (EPA 2022c)
PFBS Final Lifetime Health Advisory = 0.002 mg/L or 2,000 ppt (EPA 2022d)
We suggest you read the full EPA Technical Fact Sheet (with Health Advisory Limits for PFAS):
While the EPA has suggested health limits on PFAS, the DNR waited to set guidelines on PFAS in drinking and surface water. On August 1, 2022, news was released by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) that an agreement was reached to set proper limits for PFAS. Here is the full press release:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Aug. 1, 2022 Contact: DNR Office of Communications DNRPress@wisconsin.gov
New PFAS Administrative Rules Now In Effect
MADISON, Wis. – The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) today announced that new administrative rules for perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, known as PFAS, are now in effect.
Two rules set regulatory standards for PFAS in drinking water and surface water and the third rule sets requirements for using PFAS-containing firefighting foam. The rules will provide a better understanding of where PFAS are located in Wisconsin, require actions to correct contamination when it is found and reduce additional contamination.
If the PFAS compounds are found at levels higher than allowed by the standards in either drinking water or regulated discharges to surface water, steps to reduce the contamination will be required.
The third rule replaces the emergency rule for PFAS-containing firefighting foam that has been in effect since December 2020. It was developed as part of s. 299.48, Wis. Stats., which prohibits the use of foam with intentionally added PFAS except in emergency situations or during testing purposes. The rule provides information regarding appropriate storage, containment, treatment and disposal.
PFAS are a group of human-made chemicals used for decades in numerous products, including non-stick cookware, fast food wrappers, stain-resistant sprays and certain types of firefighting foam. These contaminants have made their way into the environment, and humans and animals can develop negative health impacts when exposed to them.
Implementing these rules addresses priority actions identified by the Wisconsin PFAS Action Council (WisPAC) in the Wisconsin PFAS Action Plan. WisPAC is comprised of representatives from nearly 20 state agencies working to address public health and environmental concerns regarding certain PFAS substances.
Although this press release was exciting news, it did not clearly spell out the limits that were being set to regulate PFAS in the state of Wisconsin. We dug deeper and found additional news stories that all shared the following information:
The Natural Resources Board voted 6 to 1 to approve a drinking water standard of 70 parts per trillion
It also approved 8 ppt for most surface waters that can support fish
Here are the links to the additional stories that corroborate the limits:
Will the limits change?
We have been watching the back and forth between the Environmental Protection Agency's determination and the Wisconsin DNR's thoughts on PFAS for quite a while. It is clear the DNR wants to follow the original guidelines established by the EPA in December 2019. Here are some things to consider:
The EPA is plans on releasing a draft national drinking water regulations in the Fall of 2022
Will the states change their minds after the EPA releases their maximum contaminant levels for PFAS? We are not certain, but it will likely influence each state
Why is PFAS such a big deal?
Perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, also known as PFAS, are chemicals created to coat consumer goods to prevent stains, waterproof, and limit corrosion. PFAS has also been linked to nonstick cookware, personal care products, fire-suppressant foams, certain carpets, outdoor gear and even the packaging of our food. These “forever chemicals” should raise alarms to consumers because some compounds are essentially around forever. They don’t deteriorate naturally and have the capability to stay in our environments for generations to come.
Research suggests that they may cause health problems in humans. According to the EPA, "Current peer-reviewed scientific studies have shown that exposure to certain levels of PFAS may lead to:
Reproductive effects such as decreased fertility or increased high blood pressure in pregnant women.
Developmental effects or delays in children, including low birth weight, accelerated puberty, bone variations, or behavioral changes.
Increased risk of some cancers, including prostate, kidney, and testicular cancers.
Reduced ability of the body’s immune system to fight infections, including reduced vaccine response.
Interference with the body’s natural hormones.
Increased cholesterol levels and/or risk of obesity
If your community has PFAS contamination, how do you protect your drinking water?
The ICS Group partnered with BioLargo to provide an effective and efficient PFAS removal technology. BioLargo Engineering, Science & Technologies is a full-service environmental engineering service provider, technology innovator, and manufacturer of patented next-generation water and air treatment products. BioLargo took the initiavve to identify and create a technology solution to remove PFAS from drinking water. The BioLargo Aqueous Electrostatic Concentrator (also known as the AEC) is the only technology on the market that is known to remove PFAS from drinking water, leaving it non-detectable. Here are the benefits of this innovative technology:
The BioLargo AEC PFAS removal technology was developed through a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant through the EPA
Removes >99% of PFAS/PFOA contaminants
The technology is not susceptible to fouling, channeling, or breakthrough like granular activated carbon or ion-resin exchange systems
PFAS removal process is not impacted by other contaminants in the water (such as minerals)
The BioLargo AEC produces 1/1000th of PFAS laden waste in comparison to carbon filtration, example – 1 million gallons a day of 70 ppt PFAS contaminated water will produce ~14 ounces of solid waste
PFAS is captured on a membrane surface, completely preventing breakthrough
The AEC can be used with other technologies, such as reverse osmosis filtration systems
If you have a large facility, this technology is scalable. Multiple systems can be installed to meet your needs
High energy efficiency
Very low cost of treatment per gallon
Featuring a compact footprint in comparison to granular activated carbon and ion resin exchange systems
The only waste from the BioLargo AEC system is the membrane – no liquid waste to dispose. BioLargo provides a "cradle to grave" disposal option by removing the spent membrane and destroying it in a CERCLA facility
To learn more about the BioLargo Aqueous Electrostatic Concentrator technology to remove PFAS, please watch this video:
What are your next steps?
If you are interested in learning more about the BioLargo AEC technology to remove PFAS from drinking water, there are a few options to get started.
Contact the ICS Group to schedule an in-person or virtual meeting to educate your team
Conduct water testing for PFAS with BioLargo. All testing is done through the University of Tennessee.
Request a demonstration of the BioLargo AEC technology at your facility
Our team is keeping a close eye on all PFAS news, not only for our state, but also the country as a whole. If your community is looking for answers and a solution, our team is here to guide you through the process.