Dirty Water Enterprise Denmark Title Image
Dirty Water: Danger from the Tap
28:54 - Source: CNN
CNN  — 

The Environmental Protection Agency’s new plan for dealing with hazardous non-stick PFAS chemicals has advocates for safe drinking water asking: Why not do more, and why not act sooner?

The agency said Thursday it will develop and set a limit – known as a maximum containment level, or MCL – for two of the chemicals, but advocates say it will take years of regulatory work before the standard will be set.

Acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler, who has been nominated to lead the agency, told reporters while unveiling the plan that he believes the agency’s 70 part per trillion health advisory level is “a safe level for drinking water.”

“As we go forth with the MCL we will be looking to see if lower levels are required according to where the science directs us,” Wheeler said.

The 70 part per trillion level is seven to 10 times higher than the levels considered safe by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, an arm of the Department of Health and Human Services. Several states have set lower levels or are currently considering lower levels.

The class of perfluoroalky and polyfluoroalkyl substances – known by shorthand names like PFAS, PFOA and GenX – and have been used in a variety of non-stick, cleaning, packaging, and other household products, as well as firefighting foam. The toxic firefighting foam has contaminated drinking water at dozens of is a particular problem around military bases.

The water supplies for nearly 110 million Americans may be contaminated with PFAS chemicals, according to the Environmental Working Group.

As part of an EPA stewardship program, US manufacturers began phasing out the chemical 19 years ago, although it is still manufactured overseas and imported.