RD877 - Study of the Occurrence of Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) in the Commonwealth’s Public Drinking Water – December 1, 2021
2020 Acts of Assembly Chapter 611 (HB586) required the Commissioner of Health to convene a work group to study the occurrence of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS), perfluorobutyrate (PFBA), perfluoroheptanoic acid (PFHpA), perfluorohexane sulfonate (PFHxS), perfluorononanoic acid (PFNA), and other perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), as deemed necessary, in the Commonwealth’s public drinking water. The work group may develop recommendations for specific maximum contaminant levels (MCLs) for PFOA, PFOS, PFBA, PFHpA, PFHxS, PFNA, and other PFAS, as deemed necessary, for inclusion in regulations of the Board of Health applicable to waterworks.
The work group shall report its findings and recommendations to the Governor and the Chairmen/Chairwomen of the House Committees on Agriculture, Chesapeake and Natural Resources and Health, Welfare and Institutions and the Senate Committees on Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources and Education and Health by December 1, 2021.
This report contains the Virginia PFAS Workgroup’s (PFAS Workgroup) findings and recommendations related to the occurrence of PFAS in the Commonwealth’s public drinking water.
The Virginia Department of Health’s (VDH) Office of Drinking Water (ODW) provided administrative support and technical guidance to the PFAS Workgroup, which planned, designed, and conducted the PFAS Sample Study (Sample Study) required by HB586 (see Appendix 1 for a list of PFAS Workgroup members). Information about PFAS contamination in drinking water in Virginia, which comes from the Sample Study, will inform the development and implementation of MCLs under Code of Virginia § 32.1-169 B. (effective January 1, 2022) and the Virginia Administrative Process Act, Code of Virginia §§ 2.2-4000 et seq.
PFAS Sample Study
HB586 limited the Sample Study to no more than 50 waterworks or major sources of supply. With this limitation, the Department of Planning and Budget (DPB) concluded VDH could absorb the costs to form the PFAS Workgroup, perform a literature survey, discuss results and data needed to drive regulatory decisions, and perform environmental sampling.(*1) The Sample Study focused on the largest waterworks in Virginia and waterworks and major sources of supply near potential sources of PFAS contamination, within the legislative and financial limitations. VDH collaborated with the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to identify potential sources of PFAS contamination and select waterworks for the Sample Study, which was voluntary for waterworks. The PFAS Workgroup reviewed the methodology and selection process and offered guidance on improving the Sample Study. A few waterworks that VDH identified for inclusion in the Sample Study declined to participate, citing ongoing construction or other maintenance projects as reasons to not participate.
Forty-five (45) waterworks participated in the Sample Study. They collected a total of 63 water samples from one or more locations because, in certain cases, there were multiple water sources or entry points. Results from the Sample Study found PFAS in quantities above the practical quantitation level (PQL) at 15 of 63 sample locations. Samples from 48 sample locations did not contain any PFAS or, if PFAS were present, they were below the PQL. In most cases, the PQL was 3.5 parts per trillion (ppt).
The results indicate that PFAS are present above the PQL (~3.5ppt) in drinking water produced from the Potomac River and Occoquan Reservoir, two major sources of water for waterworks in Northern Virginia. The amount and specific types of PFAS that may be in both sources are unknown because the Sample Study only tested finished water. Ten (10) samples from waterworks in the Northern Virginia region had at least one (1) PFAS present in a quantity above the PQL, but none were above the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) lifetime health advisory level of 70 ppt for PFOA and PFOS (individually or combined) and none exceeded any maximum contaminant level (MCL) established by other states.
The highest detected concentration of a compound was 57 ppt of HFPO-DA (hexafluoropropylene oxide-dimer acid) at Western Virginia Water Authority’s Spring Hollow water treatment plant. HFPO-DA is commonly known as GenX, a type of PFAS used in place of PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid). This was one of only two GenX detections in all of the samples tested in the Sample Study (the other was 4.0 ppt). No other PFAS were detected above the PQL at the two locations with GenX detections.
All other PFAS detections were 14 ppt or less. Information about PFAS contamination of drinking water in Virginia, which came from the Sample Study conducted pursuant to HB586, will help to inform the development and implementation of MCLs required by Code of Virginia § 32.1-169 B. However, with more than 1,050 community waterworks in Virginia, the majority of which are “small" (i.e., serving fewer than 3,300 consumers), the extent and level of PFAS contamination in drinking water from waterworks is still largely unknown.
ODW will conduct additional PFAS sampling in 2022 using $60,000 that the 2021 General Assembly appropriated and funding from EPA in the 2022 Public Water System Supervision Grant to study emerging contaminants.
1) The PFAS Workgroup recommends VDH and other agencies collect additional PFAS occurrence data in Virginia drinking water and major sources of supply. See page 43 for more detail.
2) The study design for the next round of sampling should consider factors such as: temporal data (i.e., collect a series of samples at one location to monitor seasonal variations in water quality, possibly due to variations in industrial cycles, river flows, temperatures, traffic patterns, agricultural runoffs, etc.); a focus on community waterworks; using a hybrid approach (as opposed to random sampling); prioritizing surface water sources; restricting samples to finished water (as opposed to raw or untreated water); excluding consecutive waterworks; and resampling waterworks that had PFAS > PQL during the Sample Study. See page 44.
3) The amount of funding and time for VDH and other state agencies such as DEQ to study the occurrence of PFAS in drinking water, drinking water sources, and potential sources of contamination will dictate the scope of additional sampling. The PFAS Workgroup recommends that the General Assembly consider funding additional resources at VDH and DEQ for enhanced sampling and more robust sample studies of drinking water, drinking water sources, and potential sources of contamination. See page 45.
4) When VDH and the Board of Health initiate the rulemaking process to establish MCLs for PFOA and PFOS, the Commonwealth needs to provide resources (time, money, and staff) to the agency so the process can be effective. To comply with the Administrative Process Act, an MCL should be based on toxicology and take into consideration such things as treatment costs, impacts from moving PFAS from one media to another, incremental costs, and downstream effects. The rulemaking also needs to consider impacts on small waterworks, including treatment options, costs, and how to pay when treatment is or would be required. See page 45.
5) VDH should include an analysis of environmental justice impacts that may flow from the promulgation of an MCL for any PFAS. The Commonwealth/VDH should also carefully assess whether and to what extent an MCL would improve protection of public health in communities already burdened by water, air and industrial pollution. See page 45.
6) The regulatory landscape for PFAS in solid waste and other media continues to evolve. The PFAS Workgroup recommends that this be factored in when the treatment technologies available do not destroy the contaminant but rather move it from one media to another. See page 46.