Perfluorochemicals (PFOA, PFOS and PFAS) are a family of manmade chemicals that have been used for decades as an ingredient to make products that resist heat, oil, stains, grease and water and are extremely resistant to breakdown in the environment. Common uses include nonstick cookware, stain-resistant carpets and fabrics, coatings on some food packaging, firefighting foam and many industrial applications. PFOA and PFOS are fluorinated organic chemicals that are part of a larger group of chemicals referred to as perfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs).
Other perfluorochemicals in the PFAS family are referred to as GenX chemicals because they are associated with the GenX processing aid technology patented by DuPont to make high-performance fluoropolymers without the use of PFOA. GenX is a member of a large group of man-made chemical compounds known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). Hexafluoropropylene Oxide (HFPO) Dimer Acid and its Ammonium Salt are the two major GenX chemicals associated with the GenX processing aid technology.
Select your Aqua North Carolina system here to view PFAS testing results. Currently results are only available to customers in our Coastal Region. Other systems data is coming soon.
In North Carolina, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (NCDEQ) set and regulate water standards.
The EPA identifies the contaminants to regulate in drinking water, and they set regulatory limits for amounts of certain contaminants. The EPA currently regulates 90 chemicals in drinking water with “limits” called maximum contaminant levels (MCLs). Aqua complies with the EPA’s maximum contaminant levels to ensure water quality and regulatory compliance. There are some contaminants for which the EPA develops health advisories that do not have set regulatory limits. The health advisories provide technical information on health effects. PFAS are included in those contaminants that have no regulatory limit but are associated with a health advisory.
It is believed that surface waters of the Cape Fear River have been contaminated with GenX, and possibly PFOS and PFOA, as a result of upstream industrial discharges and activities.
Though Aqua’s North Carolina system is primarily sourced from groundwater, not surface water, Aqua recognizes that the attention focused on Cape Fear River water quality issues has created a heightened public interest in all drinking water in North Carolina.
In 2020, Aqua proactively established a company-wide standard of 13 parts per trillion (PPT) for PFOA, PFNA, and PFOS, which was significantly less than the then-current 2016 Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) health advisory level (HAL) of 70 ppt for PFOA and PFOS. This treatment standard, which was based on the most stringent state guidance at the time, enabled Aqua to address these contaminants uniformly across our nearly 1,500 water systems across their eight-state footprint.
Aqua has constructed several PFAS treatment systems in states that have enacted MCLs and currently have several projects in the planning phase or under construction in North Carolina. To help balance the costs for their customers, Aqua is actively pursuing funding from government entities and taking legal action against the manufacturers responsible for producing these chemicals.
No, the EPA has not established drinking water limits for PFAS. The EPA is gathering additional information on the occurrence and health effects of PFAS chemicals while they develop drinking water limits for PFOS and PFOA. More information can be found by reading the EPA’s PFAS Strategic Roadmap.
In March 2021, the EPA announced its intention to regulate perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS) in drinking water. The EPA is developing a proposed National Drinking Water Regulation for publication by the end of 2022 for PFOA and PFOS. As EPA undertakes this action, the agency is also evaluating additional PFAS and considering regulatory actions to address groups of PFAS.
EPA anticipates finalizing the rule by the end of 2023. The proposal will include both a non-enforceable Maximum Contaminant Level Goal (MCLG) and an enforceable standard, or Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) or Treatment Technique. Aqua will comply with this standard once enacted.
EPA has in the interim established guidance in the form of health advisories for PFAS contaminants – PFOA, PFOS, PFAS and GenX. Health Advisories assist customers, utilities, and officials with information on the potential health impacts from these contaminants and health advisories are often the starting point for regulation.
Global public health organization NSF International has developed a test method and protocol to verify a water treatment device’s ability to reduce perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) to below the health advisory levels set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Third-party testing is recommended in order to determine whether your filter is effective. Consumers can find NSF International-approved devices by visiting their website.
We encourage customers with health concerns or questions to contact the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) for information relating to PFAS exposure.
No, there is no current requirement for testing for the presence of PFAS by EPA or NCDEQ since these are unregulated contaminants. The only required monitoring that occurred was required between 2013 and 2015 by the U.S. EPA as part of a national research effort called UCMR3 on a small number of systems nationwide. Some systems will be required to monitor for PFAS between 2023 and 2025 as well under the UCMR5 rule. In the absence of a regulatory requirement, Aqua North Carolina has been proactively monitoring for PFAS since 2019.
If you have additional questions or concerns, please feel free to contact Aqua at 877.987.2728 or email us at custservreply@AquaAmerica.com.