EPA Proposes New Drinking Water Standards

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced on March 14, 2023, a proposed National Primary Drinking Water Regulation to establish legally enforceable levels for six PFAS, or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, known to occur in drinking water. Specifically, EPA is proposing an enforceable Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) for PFOA and PFOS, at 4 parts per trillion (ppt), a level that can be reliably measured by most labs.  For perspective, 1 part per trillion is equal to 1 drop of water in 10 million gallons of water (or 20 Olympic size swimming pools), one minute in two million years or one penny in $10 billion.

PWC’s top priority is providing safe, high-quality drinking water that meets or exceeds all current regulatory standards. PWC’s PFAS monitoring levels have been well below the previous PFAS health advisory level of 70 ppt (parts per trillion). PWC recognizes the current level of PFOA and PFOS in our monitoring is above the EPA’s proposed drinking water standards and is prepared to meet the new standards.

PWC was the first utility in North Carolina to be recognized with the Partnership for Safe Drinking Water’s Director’s Award for outstanding commitment to quality drinking water treatment. Every year since receiving the award in 2000, PWC has continued to maintain the award’s high standards.

PWC draws water from two independent water sources, the Cape Fear River and Glenville Lake.  A predominant source of emerging compounds is the use of and manufacturing of  products link to products that contain image  (cosmetics, shampoos, paints, food packaging, cleaning, stain and stick resistance products) upstream of Fayetteville. It cannot be removed through our traditional water treatment process.  Seventy percent of a consumer’s exposure to emerging compounds comes from non-drinking water sources (see pie chart at right).

Because of this, over the last decade, we have partnered with other communities and the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (NCDEQ) to advocate having this compound and other unregulated contaminants regulated and ultimately removed from the Cape Fear River. Most recently, in 2021, PWC actions lead the state to impose lower limits on the City of Greensboro’s discharges of 1,4-dioxane from the T.Z. Osborne wastewater treatment plant, sharper penalties for non-compliance, and increased sampling/pollution control requirements to improve the water quality in the Cape Fear River Basin. 

PWC has also conducted a water treatment pilot study using granulated carbon to determine its effectiveness of removing these contaminants from our source water.  PWC has plans in place to upgrade its drinking water treatment process to meet the proposed regulations once the proposed EPA rule becomes final. Public water systems are will have three or possibly more years to comply with the regulation. More information on the EPA announcement and how to provide public comment is available here.

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