“I am thrilled to announce that EPA is taking yet another bold step to protect public health,” EPA administrator Michael Regan said at a news conference on Tuesday. “Folks, this is a tremendous step forward in the right direction. We anticipate that when fully implemented, this rule will prevent thousands of deaths and reduce tens of thousands of serious PFAS related illnesses.”
The proposal goes after six chemicals—specifically targeting PFOA and PFOS at 4 parts per trillion. Additionally, there would be limits set on the total mixed amount of four other similar chemicals, known as PFNA, PFHxS, PFBS, and GenX. If finalized, these regulations would require public water systems to monitor these compounds and notify the public if limits are exceeded.
“Regulating these six highly toxic PFAS chemicals in drinking water is a historic start to protecting our families and communities,” Anna Reade, a senior scientist with the Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental group, told the New York Times . “We cannot safeguard public health until we get off this toxic treadmill of regulating one PFAS at a time when thousands of other PFAS remain unregulated.”
Unsurprisingly, not everyone is on board. According to the New York Times , members of the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies are concerned about high expense of compliance, estimating it would cost $43 million for just one utility in Cape Fear, North Carolina, to filter out PFAS. On the other hand, the American Chemistry Council noted to the Times that two of the chemicals mentioned in the new proposal had already been phased out of production by some manufacturers eight years ago.
A few experts also pointed out that cleaning up water is only so effective—to preserve human and environmental health, corporations must stop manufacturing these harmful chemicals altogether. While some companies have made promises to stop producing PFAS, they are hardly universal. “You have to turn it off at the source,” Carol Kwiatkowski of the Green Science Policy Institute, an environmental advocacy organization, told the BBC . “It doesn’t make any sense to keep cleaning them out of the water if we keep putting them back in.”