PFAS – Pennsylvania DEP Adopts new limits on 2 PFAS Chemicals – Required Testing, Reporting and Treatment

Earlier this past week, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (“DEP”) adopted new limits on two classes of PFAS chemicals.

Pennsylvania joins a growing list of states that have implemented limits and, in some cases, bans, on certain types of PFAS and PFOS chemicals. According to the new rule, Pennsylvania will now mandate that all public and private drinking water treatment facilities in the Commonwealth, together with schools and healthcare facilities, and  commercial bottled water plants, will all be required to test their water for PFAS and PFOS, report the findings and treat affected water for the chemicals present above the new maximum contaminant levels (MCLs).

Pennsylvania’s new regulations will restrict the PFAS compounds PFOS (perfluoro-octane sulfonic acid) at 14 parts per trillion, and PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid) at 18 parts per trillion.

Studies have indicated that over 97% of all humans have PFAS compounds in their blood stream that bio accumulates over time.

For decades, PFAS chemicals have been widely used in consumer products such as cosmetics, personal care products, furniture stain resistant applications, carpet stain guard, flame retardant fire fighting  foam (including foam used at all airports in the US), non-stick cookware, flame-retardant clothing, weather resistant outdoor clothing, some food packaging, as well as in firefighting foam used at current and decommissioned military bases.

While the new DEP regulations set the MCLs for these chemicals for the first time in Pennsylvania, critics have pressed for a lower MCL, for more PFAS compounds to be regulated and for private wells to be protected. 

New Jersey recently proposed a 4-bill set of additional PFAS restrictions and already restricts PFAS at 13 parts per trillion for PFOS and PFNA, and 14 parts per trillion for PFOA. Delaware is also considering regulations akin to Pennsylvania’s and has proposed implementing its own MCLs.

At the federal level, the Environmental Protection Agency is continuing to study PFAS and had set a federal health advisory level for PFAS, but unlike the PA MCLs, the federal advisory is just that, advisory, and, as such, is not per se actionable. As part of its ongoing effort to study and limit the effects of PFAS, in June, 2022, the EPA revised its prior advisory guidance set in 2016 at 70 parts per trillion down to .004 parts per trillion, after announcing the compounds were more concerning than EPA had previously thought.

Key Take Away – Pennsylvania joins a growing list of states that are actively reviewing and setting standards on what is acceptable and not in drinking water, soil, products, food packaging, and other consumer products. The new PA rule will require testing, reporting and treatment for affected water which exceeds the noted standard.

Duane Morris has an active PFAS Team to help organizations and individuals plan, respond to, and execute on your PFAS issues and initiatives. We would be happy to discussion your concerns and objectives and how new rules, regulations and rulings might apply to you. For more information or if you have any questions about this post, please contact Lindsay Brown, Brad A. Molotsky, Alyson Walker Lotman, Alice Shanahan,  Seth Cooley, Sharon Caffrey or the attorney in the firm with whom you in regular contact or the attorney in the firm with whom you are regularly in contact.

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The opinions expressed on this blog are those of the author and are not to be construed as legal advice.

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