The EPA is planning to monitor PFAS in drinking water

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said Thursday it plans to start monitoring levels of two chemicals in drinking water.

The agency proposed regulatory determinations for perfluorooctanesulfonic acid and perfluorooctanoic acid in drinking water – two chemicals that have been found in drinking water in North Alabama.

Last year chemical company 3M, which has a plant on the Tennessee River in Decatur and made the chemicals here for decades, agreed to pay the West Morgan-East Lawrence Water Authority $35 million in a settlement. The water authority reported in 2016 that PFOA and PFOS levels in its drinking water supply from the river were at levels the government considered unhealthy.

Saying it is now aggressively addressing those chemicals in the drinking water, the EPA has included them in its latest Contaminant Candidate List. PFOA and PFOS are two of eight chemicals proposed for regulation, and they are the only two the agency is actually recommending for regulation.

The EPA has previously said studies have linked PFAS chemicals – PFOA and PFOS – to health problems like some cancers, thyroid issues, and low birth weight. 

The EPA will seek comment on the proposed regulations for 60 days.

3M said recently it plans to assist communities in the cleanup of the chemicals. The company also called on the EPA to establish regulatory standards for PFAS.

“We are part of the solution to ensuring communities have confidence in their water. This includes addressing contamination of sites where we were produced or disposed of PFAS,” 3M CEO Mike Roman said during a company earnings call in January.  

In that same January call, Roman also announced the company is facing a new potential problem — a federal grand jury. 

"In connection with our Decatur disclosures 3M received a grand jury subpoena from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Alabama in late December 2019,” Roman said. 

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