EPA announces new drinking water standards to combat PFAS chemical impacts

RALEIGH, N.C. (WITN) – The Environmental Protection Agency has announced new standards for drinking water to try to protect consumers from the harmful impacts of PFAS chemicals.

The Biden Administration finalized new standards on Wednesday for PFAS in drinking water, saying they would “reduce exposure for 100 million people.”

Officials say so-called ‘forever chemicals’ are connected to cancers and other illnesses.

The North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality said that based on all available data, more than 300 water systems in our state have PFAS levels that will exceed the new standards. That includes 42 municipal water systems serving nearly 3 million residents combined, as well as approximately 20% of small public water systems tested.

With the EPA’s new standards, each contaminant was assigned a maximum level, with PFOA and PFOS both being allowed a maximum of 4 parts per trillion.

N.C. DEQ compiled data for PFAS or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances found in water sources accessed by utilities across the state in 2022.

The samples in that study note that they were not collected under normal operating conditions and did not reflect water being served to the public.

Many of the waters accessed by the utilities in the 2022 study registered very high, like Fayetteville Public Works, which had a measurement as high as 63.9 parts per trillion.

In comparison, Greenville registered as high as 5.26 parts.

Greenville Utilities Public Information Officer Steve Hawley says that their treated water is below the 4 ppt standard that the EPA set on Wednesday.

The City of Rocky Mount was as high as 8.58.

Neuse Regional Water and Sewer Authority, which provides water to Kinston and much of Lenoir County, had a reading as high as 7.01.

The Town of Maysville’s water supply was shut down in 2019 due to dangerous levels of PFAS.

They switched to Jones County Water until the problem was resolved and later added a new water filtration system, which was completed in December 2023.

PFAS is now no longer detectable in their drinking water.

A previous version of this story stated that the 2022 study was done on drinking water. The study states that they were not collected under normal operating conditions and did not reflect water being served to the public.