Delaware is finally getting its own health limits on so-called forever chemicals in drinking water.
The Division of Public Health last week published long-awaited proposals on enforceable limits for two kinds of the PFAS chemicals, which are linked to an array of illnesses including some cancers.
If finalized, the new regulations aim to protect public health by requiring water companies to ensure their supply does not exceed the limits for PFOA and PFOS, two of the most commonly found types of the PFAS family of chemicals.
The proposed “maximum contaminant limits” (MCLs) — of 21 parts per trillion (ppt) for PFOA and 14 ppt for PFOS — are in line with levels recent set by some other states, and are much stricter than a guidance level set by the federal government.
The division also set an “exceedance” level if half of the two chemicals combined exceed 17 ppt.
Water systems will be required to begin testing within six months of the regulation being finalized, and then to test annually unless the chemicals are found at above a minimum detection limit, in which case they will have to test quarterly.
Until now, Delaware has followed the non-enforceable federal level of 70 ppt which many scientists say is too lax to fully protect public health. The absence of a federal regulation, and the growing discovery of the chemicals in public water supplies, have led an increasing number of states to set their own regulations at much lower levels.
On Feb. 26, Pennsylvania published its own proposal to regulate the same two chemicals at similar levels to Delaware’s new limits. That follows health limits on three kinds of PFAS chemicals that have been formally adopted by New Jersey in the last few years.
In response to longstanding criticism of federal inaction on PFAS, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, too, has stepped up its efforts to monitor for the chemicals, and has begun a process that would eventually lead to regulation, although any national standards could be years away.
Delaware Public Media, 1-03-22