NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC – Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced new drinking water health advisories for PFAS chemicals, including GenX. The updated health advisories levels are based on new science and consider lifetime exposure to the compounds.
For GenX, the EPA set a final lifetime health advisory level of 10 parts per trillion (ppt), which would replace the state’s provisional drinking water health goal of 140 ppt developed by the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) in 2018.
For PFOA and PFAS, the EPA issued interim updated health advisories of 0.004 ppt for PFOA and 0.02 ppt for PFOS, with a minimum reporting level of 4 ppt. These interim advisories replace the 2016 provisional health advisory of 70 ppt for both compounds.
In response to today’s announcement, the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and NCDHHS provided an update and emphasized that the agencies will prioritize actions to protect the public’s health.
New Hanover County Public Health has been in constant contact with the state public health, DEQ, and CFPUA regarding local drinking water and health advisories, and will work to determine any appropriate next steps to help residents reduce exposure risks.
“These health advisory levels are much lower than current advisories, and that is a big step forward in protecting the public’s health and recognition of the health risks from these compounds,” said New Hanover County Public Health Director David Howard. “These advisory levels could become regulatory as soon as 2023, but New Hanover County residents are already a step ahead of most areas of the country in awareness of these compounds and actions to reduce exposure. New Hanover County Public Health will be engaging the NC Division of Public Health on potential state or local protections based on these new numbers, as well as continuing to advocate for safe drinking water for all residents at every turn.”
Locally, Cape Fear Public Utility Authority is completing construction on their new granular activated carbon (GAC) filters at the Sweeney Water Treatment Plant, which will be effective at removing PFAS compounds and reducing GenX close to or at levels where it cannot be detected in treated drinking water. And CFPUA’s Richardson Plant utilizes reverse osmosis which has also been found to effectively remove PFAS.
For residents whose primary drinking water source is a private well, the county is actively working with DEQ to ensure Chemours is held accountable for sampling private wells and providing drinking water to residents whose wells exceed health advisories, which will be updated to the EPA’s health advisories announced today. Information on well sampling can be found at deq.nc.gov. Residents whose primary drinking water source is a well are encouraged to call Chemours at (910) 678-1100 or complete Chemours’ online form to request well sampling or for more information.
While drinking water is believed to be the highest risk for exposure, PFAS can be found in some foods and in the environment, so Public Health encourages residents to take steps to reduce exposure to PFOA and PFOS compounds as much as possible. Some examples may include:
- If you live near known sources of PFAS contamination or your drinking water contains PFAS above the EPA health advisory levels, you may want to use a different water source or filter your water before drinking, cooking, and preparing infant formula. Learn more about private testing and filtration options here (Note: boiling water does not remove PFAS).
- Reduce your use of products containing PFAS (packaged foods, products with non-stick or stain resistant coatings, and some personal care products). If you have questions about the products you use in your home, contact the Consumer Product Safety Commission at (800) 638-2772.
Additional actionable steps can be found at epa.gov. And for health related PFAS information, visit the NCDHHS website here.
The EPA will be hosting a webinar at 12 p.m. Eastern on Thursday, June 23, 2022 to provide the public with more information about their updated health advisories and related actions. Learn more or register for the event here.