Wolf Administration Continues to Address PFAS Contamination, Announces First Round of Statewide Sampling Results

December 05, 2019

As a result of Governor Tom Wolf’s executive order to address Perfluoroalkyl and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) in drinking water, the Wolf Administration today provided an update on the actions taken on this emerging environmental issue and released the results of the first round of drinking water samples. The results do not indicate widespread PFAS contamination.

“Pennsylvanians have a right to know that their drinking water is safe. As we and other states examine the presence of PFAS in our environment, my administration is committed to addressing the growing concern about whether these compounds are in our public water systems,” said Gov. Wolf. “Tackling PFAS requires ongoing efforts by multiple agencies and I vow to provide the resources needed and protect the public, despite inaction from the federal government. I will continue to make it a top priority, and I urge the White House and Congress to do the same.”

In September 2018, the governor signed an Executive Order establishing the PFAS Action Team, moving Pennsylvania to the forefront of states taking proactive steps to address PFAS and other contaminants.

Led by the Action Team, the administration has taken steps to identify and address contamination and establish a cleanup plan that will result in every Pennsylvanian having water free from PFAS contamination including:

  • Beginning the process of setting a Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) for PFAS after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) did not commit to doing so in February 2019. This will mark the first time that the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has set an MCL rather than adopting standards set by the federal government, as it has with all other regulated drinking water contaminants.
  • Hiring toxicologists to move forward with setting a state limit for PFAS in drinking water.
  • Taking steps to address remediation of the chemicals by working to change groundwater and soil remediation standards for three PFAS compounds.
  • Taking steps to assist communities and private well owners if PFAS contamination above the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Health Advisory Level (HAL) 70 parts per trillion (ppt).
  • Developing uniform, science-based operating procedures to guide the identification and assessment of commercial and industrial properties that have contaminated private and/or public drinking water sources.
  • Approving more than $20 million in grants to address PFAS groundwater contamination.
  • Testing all water supplies to Pennsylvania Army National Guard facilities and state-owned homes for veterans for PFAS. While all sample results returned with non-detectable levels of PFAS, the water wells will continue to be monitored.
  • Taking steps at the Horsham Air Guard Station to ensure adequate treatment of affected public drinking water supplies to the nearby Horsham Township in Montgomery County and Warminster and Warrington townships in Bucks County.

The statewide sampling plan began in June and is expected to take a year to complete. DEP collected the samples and an accredited laboratory is conducting testing for six PFAS chemicals: PFOS, PFOA, Perfluorononanoic acid (PFNA), Perfluorohexane sulfonate (PFHxS), Perfluoroheptanoic acid (PFHpA), and Perfluorobutane sulfonate (PFBS).

DEP has identified 493 public water system sources as potential sampling sites because they meet the criterion of being located within a half mile of a potential source of PFAS contamination, such as military bases, fire training sites, landfills, and manufacturing facilities. Of those, DEP will test approximately 360 sources. DEP will also test around 40 sources that are not located within a half mile of a potential source of PFAS contamination to establish a baseline.

“Because PFAS are so pervasive in our environment and the public health impact is still emerging, we must examine the incidence and prevalence of these chemical compounds in Pennsylvania and take the unprecedented step of setting a MCL — a first for our state,” said DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell. “The statewide sampling plan of the state’s public water systems is a critical step toward achieving that goal.”

In the first round of sampling conducted by DEP, just one of 96 sampled sites tested above the federal EPA HAL of 70 ppt for the combined concentrations of two PFAS chemicals, Perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) and Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA). The site, State of the Art Inc. in Benner Township, Centre County, had a combined sample result for PFOS and PFOA of 114 ppt. The private business is regulated by DEP as a non-transient non-community public water system, meaning that the water supply is not regularly served to the public, but is available to workers at the facility. The facility and DEP are working cooperatively to address the issue while a formal agreement on corrective actions is in discussion. State of the Art Inc. has been providing bottled water to employees since some time prior to the findings, for reasons unrelated to PFAS.

PFAS was not detected in two-thirds of the sites sampled and the results of the other third were well below the EPA’s HAL.

These and further actions and recommendations can be found in a new report released by the administration’s PFAS Action Team.

View a copy of the PFAS Action Team Initial Report.

View the first-round results of DEP’s statewide sampling plan.

View information on PFAS in Pennsylvania.

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