Mar 15, 2023
Colorado EPA Proposes National Legal Limits on Forever Chemicals on Public Water Transcript
The Colorado EPA proposes a national legal limit on forever chemicals, known as PFAS, in public water supplies. Read the transcript here.
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And new at six, a landmark announcement from the Environmental Protection Agency that will affect drinking-water supplies all over Colorado.
For the first time, the EPA is proposing national legal limits on forever chemicals in public water supplies. Our investigator, Kati Weis, has been covering these toxic chemicals, also known as PFAS for the last three years here in our state.
Katie, you’ve found dozens of Colorado water utilities have found levels above these new proposed limits.
Kati Weis (00:28):
Yes. Jim, Kelly, we’ve found that there are dozens of water systems that could have these unsafe levels, but there actually could be many more systems who have unhealthy levels of these toxic forever chemicals, but they just don’t know that they have those levels yet because they haven’t been required to test for them. But this new proposed rule aims to change that, so that way when we pour ourselves a glass of drinking-water, we won’t have to worry about drinking any toxic forever chemicals.
The EPA says its proposal for the first federal limits on harmful forever chemicals in drinking-water could prevent thousands of deaths and illnesses nationwide. Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances are a toxic group of compounds known as PFAS that are linked to health issues including birth defects and cancer. The rules are not final yet and will be up for public comment.
Dr. Christopher Higgins (01:19):
So I think it’s a very important first step.
Kati Weis (01:21):
Colorado School of Mines professor, Dr. Christopher Higgins, has been studying PFAS for years.
Dr. Christopher Higgins (01:26):
So we understand that these chemicals are present in all of us. You can take a sample of anyone’s blood and measure these chemicals in there. And there have been concerns about long-term effects, and so everything we can do to reduce people’s exposure is a really important thing.
Kati Weis (01:44):
The EPA’s proposal sets hazard standards for four PFAS compounds and would require levels of two other PFAS compounds, PFOA and PFOS, to be below four parts per trillion in public drinking-water. It would also require water systems to regularly test and notify the public of any exceedances.
Dr. Christopher Higgins (02:04):
The reality is these compounds have been used in so many different things for so many different places over so many different years, they are pretty much in everything.
Kati Weis (02:13):
Our analysis of state testing records shows in 2020, 40 public water utilities in Colorado had levels of both PFOS and PFOA at or above four parts per trillion. Those water systems will now need to figure out how to lower those levels.
Dr. Christopher Higgins (02:30):
So it’s a big deal because this is going to impact a lot of water systems. There’s a lot of communities around the country that have levels of PFASs in their drinking-water. It’s not going to be every single water system in the country, but it’s going to be a lot.
Kati Weis (02:49):
Now, Higgins tells me his research into how to destroy these toxic forever chemicals could soon be put to good use as a result of this announcement today. Now, he also says, in the meantime, while you wait on your water system to look into how to mitigate these levels, you can use a reverse osmosis filtration system for your home, or even just a simple carbon filter. But he says if you use one of those, it’s important to change your filter regularly. Kelly?
Well, Kati, what about folks who have private wells?
Kati Weis (03:18):
Yeah, Kelly, so if you have a private, well, this is not included in the EPA’s announcement today for these proposed rules. So it’s important that you go ahead and test your private well for these chemicals to make sure that you’re not drinking them either, and especially if you’ve had wildfires in your area, because firefighting foam can contain these chemicals as well. [inaudible 00:03:40].
All right. A lot of good information there, Kati. Thank you.