What are PFAS?
Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a group of chemicals used or found in many industrial processes and consumer products ranging from carpets and clothing to cookware and fire-fighting foam. Among other qualities, PFAS are stain resistant, water repellant, and heat stable.
Unfortunately, some PFAS also have known health effects and are considered PBTs—persistent in the environment, bio-accumulative in organisms, and toxic at relatively low levels. The synthetic chemicals are now found globally in the environment often associated with releases from manufacturing sources or use of fire-fighting foam at military installations, airports, and fire-training stations. PFAS are increasingly detected in drinking water sources across the country and have been detected in drinking water in Washington state. These include drinking water sources near several military installations in Washington.
PFAS Rule Overview
The Washington State Board of Health (Board) amended the Group A public water supplies and the Drinking Water Laboratory Certification and Data Reporting rules to include requirements for PFAS.
The rule reset procedures and requirements for developing and adopting State Action Levels (SALs) and state Maximum Contaminant Levels (MCLs) for drinking water. The rule also established SALs for five PFAS.
Specifically, the rule requires Group A community and non-transient, non-community public water systems to test for PFAS. For Group A water systems that have detections of PFAS, but do not exceed the SAL, the rule requires additional monitoring. There are also reporting, recordkeeping, and consumer confidence report requirements. For Group A water systems that exceed the SAL, the rule requires follow-up actions such as monitoring, public notification, additional recordkeeping, and reporting requirements.
Currently there are no federal drinking water MCLs for PFAS, but work at the federal level is underway. Many other states have acted similar to Washington to regulate PFAS in drinking water in the absence of federal PFAS MCLs.
The Board rules were adopted in October 2021 and have been in effect since January 2022.
What is happening at the Aug. 10 public meeting?
The Washington State Department of Health (DOH) Office of Drinking Water will update the Board on efforts implementing the new rules for PFAS and possible future action by the Board. The update will include results of voluntary PFAS drinking water monitoring that is underway in the state that precedes the rule’s initial required monitoring in 2023-2025. DOH will update the status of work at the federal level on revised PFAS health advisory levels (HALs) and PFAS drinking water MCLs. DOH will also cover other related work in Washington, including recent PFAS drinking water detections near the Yakima Training Center involving work with the local community, Department of Defense, and other partners.