Earlier this year, the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued health advisories for several “forever chemicals.” Regulations require the issuance of a health advisory when a chemical that is “toxic or harmful to human health”—but for which there is no current groundwater standard—is detected in a community water supply well “and confirmed by resampling.” 35 Ill. Adm. Code 620.605(a). According to the Illinois EPA website, “Advisories also contain general information on the characteristics of the harmful contaminant, potential adverse health effects, and numerical contaminant guidance levels,” which “represent concentrations in drinking water at which no adverse health effects are expected to occur.” The health advisories are intended to provide guidance to local officials and community water supply operators.
The Illinois EPA explained that in this instance, the “four chemicals specified in the health advisories are compounds included in the family of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), often referred to as ‘forever chemicals’ because of their persistence over time in surface water and groundwater.” The levels are not enforceable standards but rather will be used along with other data to develop enforceable drinking water standards for PFAS [known as Maximum Contaminant Levels (MCLs)]. Illinois continues to gather statewide PFAS data.
Meanwhile, Michael S. Regan has been nominated to be Administrator of the United States EPA. In testimony during his nomination hearing, Mr. Regan stated that PFAS will be a top priority for the Biden Administration. He indicated the agency needs to take a strong look at emissions coming from the combustion and incineration of products that yield PFAS into our atmosphere. He also stated that this Administration considers it to be a priority to set limits on how much of this chemical compound enters our air and water.
Issues surrounding “forever chemicals” are obviously not going away anytime soon, at either the state or the federal level.