Impacts of proposed EPA rules on testing for ‘forever chemicals’ in drinking water

Published: Mar. 16, 2023 at 7:15 PM EDT
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TOLEDO, Ohio (WTVG) - Water treatment facilities across the country could have to start testing for so-called ‘forever chemicals’ under a new proposal from the Environmental Protection Agency. A group representing the country’s water administrators is concerned they might have to pass costs off to households.

That group says the new rules the EPA proposed this week are a step in the right direction to make sure chemicals known as PFAS don’t make it into drinking water. The chemicals were initially considered revolutionary in the 1940s in things like non-stick pans. They don’t break down easily and have been linked to health problems, like some cancers and liver damage.

The proposed rule would require water systems to test for PFAS and remove them from their water if found to be above a certain level. The EPA estimates the rule could reduce tens of thousands of illnesses and deaths. ABC News Medical Contributor Dr. Darien Sutton said that a major concern is for babies, saying long-term and high exposure for them can have devastating consequences. Children’s bodies are more vulnerable because they’re still developing.

The City of Toledo has tested for PFAS before but not since 2020. The city is not required to regularly test for the chemicals but officials assure residents the water meets all state and federal standards. Experts say being in the Great Lakes Region also helps to keep levels where they need to be.

“Even if a little of it is getting off of the farm land, out of the landfills, and through the wastewater plant and other possible sources, lake Erie is so large that its diluting it to the point where it’s barely detectable, even with the most modern of methods,” said Jeff Martin, a Senior Chemist with the Toledo Water Treatment Plant.

City of Toledo officials say they would see costs go up by about $1,000 if they had to test for PFAS but wouldn’t have to pass those costs on to customers. A national group of water administrators say that might not be the case everywhere.

The EPA’s proposal is still in the early stages. The agency plans to issue its final rule by the end of 2023 and then give states and water systems three years to come into compliance.

Watch the extended Action News Now report in the video below.

What chemicals are in your water? Josh Croup explores efforts to make what you drink safer in this Action News Now report.

13abc Big Story: Drinking water safety

The EPA has come out with the first ever proposed limits on harmful "forever chemicals" called PFAS in drinking water.