Saffron Restaurants reservation Federal PFAS regulations provide support for the Alabama Riverkeepers

Federal PFAS regulations provide support for the Alabama Riverkeepers

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Last month, the Environmental Protection Agency released new formal drinking water standards and limits for the class of man-made chemicals known as PFAS. PFAS, better known as ‘forever chemicals’, are often dumped into the water by large factories and manufacturers.

The EPA lowered the previous 2016 standard from 60 parts per trillion, which was voluntarily enforced, to 4 parts per trillion, which will be legally enforceable. To help combat PFAS in drinking water, the EPA also announced that $1 billion in funding will be distributed to regions across the country to help test and treat PFAS at public water treatment plants and to help private well owners help with contamination.

The Alabama Riverkeepers have been at the forefront of Alabama’s PFAS fight, educating the public about the chemicals, testing local riverways and filing lawsuits against groups that knowingly pollute. With federal regulations in place, the Riverkeepers are ready to hold regulators and manufacturers accountable.

“It comes down to chemical manufacturers and regulators’ lack of willingness to do anything about it and have allowed this to continue for decades,” said Nelson Brooke, a Blackwarrior Riverkeeper. “It has gotten to the point where these PFAS compounds are found in so many consumer products in our daily lives. Each of us touched them.”

PFAS are often used to make certain consumer goods water, stain or grease resistant. The most notable chemical presence of PFAS is in Decatur, Alabama, where 3M recently had to pay a $98 million settlement.

“For drinking water, Decatur was already on track to have their water treated. Now there is light at the end of the tunnel with clarity on legal limits and requirements that everyone needs to be aware of,” said Brooke.

The process of removing PFAS from water comes down to having the resources. Drinking water suppliers are given a three-year period to monitor the initial presence of these chemicals and must then notify consumers of their levels. If these levels exceed limits, systems must implement solutions to reduce PFAS levels within five years.

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“It was a bit overwhelming until it became clear that there was a horizon for these regulations. Knowing how horrible these chemicals are and that there seemed to be no idea when anything would be done about them,” Brooke said. “Now we just have to roll up our sleeves and get to work getting these materials out of our environment.”

Now that these materials are classified as hazardous, the Alabama Department of Environmental Management has regulatory authority over facilities that discharge PFAS. Some states have even created regulations that ban the production of the chemicals entirely.

“If in the future we have actual figures, so that we can say that what we find exceeds the permitted limits, that will spur action. Until now there has been no mechanism to stop or clean this up,” Brooke said. “That’s all going to change.”