New EPA PFAS Advisories: What Now? WEF Offers Advice

Interested in Public Outreach?

Get Public Outreach articles, news and videos right in your inbox! Sign up now.

Public Outreach + Get Alerts

The U.S. EPA’s new interim drinking water health advisories for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) have water utility leaders asking: What should we do in response?

The Water Environment Federation is offering advice on its website at The advisories are much stricter than the previous levels “and likely mean hundreds, if not thousands, of drinking water systems nationwide will be affected,” according to WEF.

While releasing the advisories, the EPA announced up to $5 billion in grants to help communities prepare for and deal with PFAS.

The EPA advisories most significantly affect two PFAS chemicals: perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS). Since 2016, the advisory level for drinking water had been 70 parts per trillion. The new interim advisories are 0.004 ppt for PFOA and 0.02 ppt for PFOS.

The agency also issued final lifetime drinking water health advisories GenX chemicals at 10 ppt and for PFBS at 2,000 ppt. WEF observes that these non-enforceable advisories are meant to share the EPA’s latest information and to help utilities begin reducing risks to public health.

WEF president Jamie Eichenberger observed, “EPA’s decision to reduce these health advisory levels from 70 ppt to as low as 0.004 ppt will have a significant impact on water utilities, who receive these chemicals from industry and consumers and are not generators themselves.

“We encourage EPA to continue to work toward source control to prevent these contaminants from entering our waterways in the first place and are looking forward to working with EPA to develop science-based effluent limits and drinking water standards that protect public health and the environment without placing an undue burden on our utilities and ratepayers.”

Formal rules in the works

WEF notes that the setting of health advisory levels is the start of a science-based process to investigate the issue thoroughly in preparation for formal rule-making. The EPA’s PFAS Strategic Roadmap includes targeting National Primary Drinking Water Regulations for PFOA and PFOS in autumn of this year; a final rule then would follow in autumn 2023.

The proposed rule would include both a non-enforceable Maximum Contaminant Level Goal and an enforceable Maximum Contaminant Level. WEF observes, “EPA has identified a series of technologies that are known to reduce PFAS concentrations. They include activated carbon, ion exchange, and high-press membranes.”

The federation also noted that the new advisory levels for PFOA and PFOS are below the levels where they can be detected and quantified using current analytical methods. 

Funds available

In confronting PFAS, the EPA also announced $1 billion in grants from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. This represents the first portion of $5 billion that ultimately will be available to reduce PFAS in drinking water “in communities facing disproportionate impacts,” according to WEF. “The EPA has published guidance detailing eligible applicants, eligible projects and how to apply for the funds.”

Additional funds are available through the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund ($3.4 billion) and the Clean Water State Revolving Fund ($3.2 billion).

Engage with customers

The EPA encourages water utilities to engage with their communities on PFAS and recommends that those finding PFAS in drinking water inform residents, deploy additional monitoring to assess scope and source of contamination, and explore steps to limit exposure.

Key messages to convey to customers, according to the EPA, are:

• Water agencies do not use or produce PFAS. They receive traces of the chemicals used by manufacturers and consumers.

• The EPA and the water sector are working together. The agency has committed to working with state agencies and drinking water systems on ways to reduce public health risks related to PFAS, especially in small and disadvantaged communities.

• Treatment systems to remove PFAS are already available and proven. They can be deployed at the utility level and at private wells and as point-of-use devices in homes.

For more information, visit


Comments on this site are submitted by users and are not endorsed by nor do they reflect the views or opinions of COLE Publishing, Inc. Comments are moderated before being posted.