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Posted on: November 1, 2022

Commissioners' Corner (Issue 202)

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Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) are a large family of chemicals that are not found naturally in the environment. Since the 1950’s, PFAS chemicals are found in many common consumer products such as food packaging, non-stick cookware, water resistant clothing, cleaning products, and some cosmetics. PFAS are also used in certain types of firefighting foams utilized by the U.S. military, local fire departments, and airports. 

Known as “Forever Chemicals”, PFAS are a public health concern because they do not break down in the environment and can travel long distances in groundwater. When introduced into drinking water, they have the potential to build up in animals and humans over time and may lead to harmful health effects. Scientists are continuing to learn more about these substances, but there are thousands of PFAS chemicals, making it a challenge to study and assess all the potential human health and environmental risks. 

PFAS chemicals are not yet regulated under the Safe Drinking Water Act or other major U.S. environmental laws. Because of the lack of federal regulation, in January 2022, the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) took the proactive step to implement new requirements for water utilities to begin monitoring and testing for five common types of PFAS. 

The new regulation established State Action Levels (SALs) for certain PFAS chemicals. These are levels DOH has set for long-term daily drinking water to protect people’s health. The SALs are set below levels that have caused health effects in animal studies while they work to establish health effect levels for humans. Exceeding any SAL triggers purveyors to perform follow-up actions, including notifying affected customers, increasing monitoring and testing, identifying the source, and developing strategies to reduce the contaminant. Starting in 2023, utilities are required to begin testing over the next three years. To add to the complexity of the problem, PFAS chemicals in drinking water are measured in parts-per-trillion (ppt). For reference, one ppt is equivalent to one second in about 32,000 years or one grain of sand in an Olympic sized swimming pool! Only until very recently has the technology been available to measure PFAS chemicals to this level of precision, and few laboratories are able to accurately perform these tests.

The good news…Lakehaven has performed preliminary testing of our sources and not found any PFAS in our drinking water exceeding State Action Levels. The challenge is that PFAS has been discovered above recommended levels in the water supplies of millions of Americans across the rest of the country. Because our number one priority is to deliver safe drinking water, Lakehaven will closely monitor PFAS regulations and continue our testing efforts as more research becomes available. More information on PFAS can be found on the EPA Website:www.epa.gov/pfas or the DOH Website: https://doh.wa.gov/community-and-environment/contaminants/pfas

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