For Immediate Release: Friday, February 28, 2020
Contact: Kyla Bennett (508) 230-9933;
Sets Limits too High, Omits Thousands of PFAS and Fails to Address Sources
Boston — Massachusetts is poised to take a commendable first step to counter the growing water pollution crisis arising from so-called “forever chemicals” that do not breakdown in the environment, but needs to go much further, according to comments filed today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).
On December 27, 2019, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MADEP) proposed setting a maximum contamination level (MCL) in drinking water for only a handful of toxic per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, collectively labelled PFAS. The proposed MCL would be 20 parts-per-trillion (ppt) for six PFAS contaminants: PFOS, PFOA, PFHxS, PFNA, PFHpA, and PFDA. By contrast, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s unenforceable Lifetime Health Advisory is 70 ppt for two chemicals (PFOS and PFOA). EPA has yet to adopt an MCL for any PFAS.
In its comments, PEER points out that the state’s proposed action –
- Sets the Limit Too High. PEER points to recent research findings that the safety threshold for PFOA in drinking water should be as low as 0.1 ppt, which is 200 times lower than the proposed state MCL and 700 times lower than the advisory level set by the EPA;
- Ignores Thousands of PFAS Variations. There are currently more than 5,000 different PFAS chemicals yet MADEP is proposing to regulate only six. Many other PFAS are found in drinking water throughout the Commonwealth and are chemically similar to those with known toxicity. PEER is urging MADEP to regulate the entire class of PFAS; and
- Should Address Sources of Contamination. PEER argues that Massachusetts cannot protect its drinking water if it does not shut down the multiple sources of PFAS contamination from industrial, military, and waste streams.
“By proposing to proceed on a chemical-by-chemical basis, the state is embarking upon an unwinnable game of regulatory whack-a-mole,” stated New England PEER Director Kyla Bennett, a scientist and attorney formerly with EPA. “Massachusetts cannot effectively tackle the PFAS problem in a piecemeal fashion but must adopt a holistic posture.”
Even as the Bay State seeks to regulate PFAS, it promotes the spread of PFAS by allowing it in landfill leachates, biosolid fertilizers, pesticides, and even in artificial turf. As a result, PFAS keeps seeping into both surface and groundwater throughout the state.
“Without a cradle-to-grave approach, these forever chemicals will forever plague us,” added Bennett, noting that PFAS chemicals have been linked to cancer, immune system effects, liver failure and birth defects. “Massachusetts needs to take this first step but must resolve to go the distance if it expects to surmount this growing environmental and public health threat.”