The Environmental Protection Agency is due to announce enforceable regulations on the amount of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, a class of thousands of chemicals collectively known as PFAS, allowed in drinking water.
Those rules, which could be announced as early as today, could end up costing communities around the country nearly $40 billion to implement, according to the Associated Press.
PFAS, used in everything from food packaging to firefighting foam, are called “forever chemicals” because they don’t break down in the environment and they accumulate in our bodies. PFAS have been linked to cancer, reproductive and immune system harm, and other diseases.
In recent years, the chemicals have been detected nearly everywhere researchers have looked, from cows and farm soil to breast milk and schools. The Environmental Working Group says there are nearly 3,000 sites, in all 50 states and two territories, that are known to be contaminated. The real number is likely significantly higher.
As the AP writes, “Water providers are preparing for tough standards and testing that will undoubtedly reveal PFOA and PFOS in communities that don’t yet know the chemicals are in their water. … For communities with the pollutants, it’s not a cheap problem to solve.
“Nationally, it could cost roughly $38 billion to remove enough of the chemicals to meet a strict EPA rule limiting them to where they can’t be detected, according to an estimate prepared by engineering consultant Black & Veatch for the American Water Works Association, an industry group. There also will be ongoing costs for filter material and testing.
“The consultant looked at federal and state test results and estimated that 4% to 12% of water providers nationally will need to treat for PFAS due to the EPA rule.”