WRF Resources on Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS)

Sep 30, 2019

On September 25, 2019, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) released a new report stating that per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) have been detected in California drinking water sources. The information EWG cites is based on publicly available data from the California State Water Resources Control Board and EPA. As a result of EWG’s report, your utility may receive media inquiries about PFAS.

The below talking points can be used when responding to inquiries from your community members and the media. Other PFAS Resources are linked in the sidebar.

PFAS Talking Points

  • To protect public health and the environment, additional science is needed to determine how to address the multiple sources of PFAS.
  • The PFAS group contains thousands of different compounds with widely differing properties.
  • Drinking water and wastewater are not sources of PFAS. PFAS are present throughout the environment because they are highly persistent and have been widely used for decades, including in industrial applications, household and consumer products, food packaging, and firefighting foams. 
  • The persistence, toxicity, and bioaccumulation of individual PFAS compounds can vary widely, and this can make decision-making regarding appropriate actions quite complex.
  • Research has shown that there may be health effects associated with exposure to some PFAS.
  • There currently are no Federal Regulations for PFAS under the Clean Water Act or Safe Drinking Water Act. Drinking Water Health Advisories have only been established for perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA).
  • Granular activated carbon (GAC), anion exchange (AIX), reverse osmosis and nanofiltration are the most commonly recommended treatment technologies for removing PFAS from drinking water, but there are challenges associated with their use. These technologies do not destroy PFAS, and thus create residuals in need of further treatment or disposal.  The operations and maintenance are also expensive compared to conventional water treatment technologies, which impacts the affordability of water. 
  • There are several innovative destruction technologies being researched but these are not yet ready for full-scale implementation and are most effective for high-strength PFAS waste streams.

If you have further technical questions about PFAS, please contact Dr. Kenan Ozekin, Unit Leader–Research Services, or your Regional Liaison.

About WRF

The Water Research Foundation (WRF) is the leading not-for-profit research cooperative that advances the science of water to protect public health and the environment. Governed by utilities, WRF delivers scientifically sound research solutions and knowledge to serve our subscribers and stakeholders in all areas of drinking water, wastewater, stormwater, and reuse. Learn more at www.waterrf.org.