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What it Means: New EPA Standards for PFAS in Drinking Water 

What it Means: New EPA Standards for PFAS in Drinking Water 

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, commonly referred to as PFAS, are a class of long-lasting chemical compounds that have been used in a variety of manufacturing practices since the 1950s. Today, we find these manmade substances accumulating in our water, air, soil, and even food supply. Long-term exposure to PFAS poses several health risks to the public. In response to growing concern over PFAS exposure, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced last month new and more protective federal standards to limit the levels of six types of PFAS in our drinking water. 

Per a Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources news release, Wisconsin is well-positioned to comply with the new standards, and public water systems across the state have already begun sampling for PFAS. About 95% of Wisconsin’s public water systems have reported PFAS levels below the maximums set by the EPA. For the remaining 5%, funding from the Emerging Contaminants Cap Grants as part of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law is available to support any projects that will reduce or eliminate detectable levels of PFAS in public water. Applications for SFY 2025 are due June 30, 2024. 

Compliance with the new standards may prove most challenging for smaller water systems that have been historically ineligible for funding. In response to these inequities, the DNR announced a new grant program to help smaller public water systems that are not owned by a government or municipality address PFAS contamination. Applications are due by July 31, 2024. 

In addition to these federal and state initiatives, there are several actions that individuals can take to avoid or reduce individual PFAS exposure. The Wisconsin Department of Health Services recommends limiting contact with products that have PFAS, vacuuming your home regularly, and following the Wisconsin DNR’s advice on consuming fish.  

Most importantly, DHS encourages making sure that the water you consume is safe. A tool to evaluate risk from PFAS detected in your drinking water source can be found here. For a potential alternative source for watering your garden, you may consider harvesting rainwater – although additional considerations are necessary when irrigating food plots as harvested rainwater is considered non-potable.  

Residents aren’t alone in their efforts to limit PFAS exposure. As a result of the new federal standards, municipalities across the nation will be working to minimize PFAS in public drinking water. By 2027, residents can expect further information from their public water systems about the PFAS levels in their water. By 2029, public water systems will begin implementing solutions to reduce PFAS to safer levels. From that point forward, public water utilities will notify the public if PFAS levels rise again. 

Future local projects may follow the example of Madison’s planned PFAS treatment system for Well 15. The $5.9 million project was financed through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law-funded Safe Drinking Water Loan Program, which provides half of the total cost as grant funding and the other half as a low-interest loan. Construction begins this summer on what will be Wisconsin’s first PFAS treatment system. The system is expected to be operational in 2025.

For more information, read the DNR’s original news release