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PFAS, or Per- and poly-Fluoro Alkyl Substances, is a term that describes thousands of human-made chemicals found in everyday products that are heat, water, and oil resistant. PFAS can end up in our water, air, and soil from thousands of potential sources resulting in exposure to humans, animals and the environment. Since the 1940s, they have been used to make things like:
Studies have shown that, in high enough quantities, certain PFAS may be bad for your health. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) uses lifetime Health Advisories to protect people from negative health effects that may come from exposure to PFAS. These calculations are based on drinking about 64 ounces of water per day for 70 years. This also takes into account other potential sources of exposure beyond drinking water (for example, food, air, consumer products, etc.).
Arvada Water Quality performs internal sampling. So far there has been no detected PFAS compounds near the EPA reporting limits in our raw or treated waters (see Internal PFAS Results (PDF)). Arvada also participated in Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment's 2020 PFAS Sampling Project. We will also be participating in the EPA's UCMR5 sampling in 2023 which includes many more PFAS compounds than tested for in the past. All of this information will be publicly available when complete.
The City works very hard to keep our drinking water safe for all who drink it. Thankfully, we are very early users of our water source. This means our source water hasn't had as much opportunity to be contaminated. Remember that all water, including bottled water, may reasonably be expected to contain at least small amounts of some contaminants.
PFAS enter the wastewater (sewer) system when products containing them are washed or rinsed down your drains. Wastewater treatment plants typically don't fully remove the tiny particles so they end up moving downstream to the next water user.
They can also enter groundwater near facilities where PFAS-containing products are made or used. In Arvada, groundwater is not a source of our drinking water.
The EPA and CDPHE are working on drinking water quality standards but do not have set regulations at this time. Health Advisories are used as a reference while they create maximum contaminant levels (MCL) for drinking water.
The EPA Health Advisories, which are not regulations, have previously included two compounds, PFOA and PFOS. The EPA has newly released Health Advisories that expand the lifetime exposure levels. These advisories add the HFPO, or "GenX", and PFBS compounds, and lower the advisory levels for PFOA and PFOS.
Previously, the PFOA and PFOS compounds had a health advisory level of 70 ppt (parts per trillion). The new advisories reduce these to 0.004 ppt and 0.02 ppt respectively. 0.004 ppt is the same as 4 parts per quadrillion. A part per quadrillion is 1 in 1,000,000,000,000,000. This is equivalent to 1 second in 31.7 million years! Current technology can measure these compounds at about 2 ppt.
The advisory levels for PFBS and HFPO are 2000 ppt and 10 ppt respectively.
The State and Federal governments have also created new regulations on the manufacture and sale of PFAS-containing products. Colorado's HB22-1345 is one example.
EPA: Primary Webpage on All Things PFAS
EPA PFAS Questions and Answers
CDPHE: PFAS and Your Health
Metro Water Recovery: Useful Tips and Links to Reduce Your Product Exposure