EPA begins setting standards for PFAS groundwater investigations


HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — For a second straight day, the Environmental Protection Agency announced new steps it is taking regarding PFAS chemicals.

As WHNT News 19 has reported over the past few years, the chemicals made by 3M and other companies are resistant to stains, heat, grease, and water.  A side effect is that they are also very slow to break down in the environment.

The PFAS chemicals, PFOA and PFOS,  were found in drinking water in Lawrence County in 2016, above the EPA’s lifetime health advisory level of 70 parts per trillion.  The West Morgan-East Lawrence Water Authority sued 3M over the water contamination and reached a $35 million settlement. The money will be used to install a state-of-the-art filtration system.

The EPA said Friday that it is maintaining that lifetime health advisory figure, but is also working on a new standard for groundwater.

Here’s what the EPA is recommending for groundwater investigations:

  • A screening level of 40 parts per trillion to determine if PFOA and/or PFOS is present at a site and may warrant further attention.
  • That the screening levels are risk-based values used to help determine if more investigation of a site is needed.
  • And that the guidelines can be used to help states and other organizations assess cleanup needs.

PFOS and PFOA chemicals were recently found in heavy concentrations at three closed landfills in Decatur during an investigation by 3M called for by the City of Decatur.

As part of the ongoing investigation of the Decatur sites, a number of wells will be monitored to determine the chemical volume in the groundwater.

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