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May 16, 2024

Bay Journal — by Timothy B. Wheeler — May 13, 2024

"The Chesapeake Bay watershed’s checkerboard approach to 'forever chemicals' is finally beginning to end. The cost to water utility customers — and the timeline for real action — remains to be seen.

After a long delay, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has finalized enforceable nationwide limits in drinking water for six per– and polyfluoroalkyl substances, highly persistent toxic chemicals known by the shorthand term PFAS...

...In West Virginia, which has dealt with PFAS contamination in the Ohio and Potomac river watersheds, the state commissioned the U.S. Geological Survey to sample the finished drinking water of 37 public water systems previously identified as having certain PFAS compounds in their raw-water source. Twenty-seven public water systems were found to have detectable levels in their finished drinking water, and 19 had levels above at least one of the EPA’s proposed regulatory standards.

In Virginia, the state Department of Health has been conducting PFAS sampling at selected public drinking water systems since 2021. As of December 2023, the effort had found concentration levels of concern at 18 systems — mostly in Northern Virginia and the Newport News and Roanoke areas. Those systems serve about 2.5 million people, or nearly one-third of the state’s population.

David Sligh, conservation director of Wild Virginia, called on state regulators to follow up on the EPA’s rulemaking by taking action to prevent PFAS releases to the environment through wastewater discharges and sewage sludge applied to farmland.

A bill passed by the legislature and signed by Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin this spring requires the Department of Environ-mental Quality to investigate potential sources of PFAS whenever a water system reports levels above the federal limit. Any manufacturing plant suspected of being the source must self-report the types of PFAS compounds it uses.

In Delaware, the U.S. Geological Survey detected PFAS in more than half of the 30 wells it sampled, with two above EPA’s maximum contaminant level.

And in New York, the state has provided $2.5 billion for upgrading water infrastructure. Hundreds of systems have detected unsafe PFAS levels."

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