The US finalized rules for pesticides in drinking water

The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Measurement Limits on “Forever Chemicals” and a First Step Towards Preventing Health in the U.S.

Some evidence has been accumulated for their negative effects on human health. “Long term exposure to certain types of PFAS have been linked to serious illnesses, including cancer, liver damage and high cholesterol,” the EPA’s Regan said.

Southerland says the new limits are a bold first step towards addressing the PFAS problem. While the EPA focuses on six chemicals, the treatment that water utilities use to remove them will remove other chemicals of concern from drinking water.

A study published last year found that communities with larger numbers of black and Latino residents were exposed to higher levels of harmful pesticides in the water.

In a call ahead of the announcement, EPA Administrator Michael Reagan said, “I have to say it’s a good day for the people in this country who have long been impacted by pollution from these forever chemicals.”

They are known as “forever chemicals” because of their strong bonds that don’t break down for a long time.

The agency estimates it will cost water companies 1.5 billion dollars every year for them to be compliant with the regulation, if the PCBS shows up in the drinking water. “The treatment costs are not just for a single sampling and then it’s over,” Southerland says. Monitoring and maintaining equipment is included in the list of things they include.

She said seeing the EPA’s limits is valid. Six years ago when they first raised the issue, she says she was told the water met or exceeded state and federal guidelines. “And that’s because there weren’t any,” she says. “It really broke public trust for so many people in our community.”

“This is a breakthrough for public health,” said the senior director with NRDC. “We believe it’s going to save thousands of lives as a result of reduced exposure of tens of millions of people to these toxic chemicals in the tap water.”

The EPA says the benefits will equal, if not exceed the cost, in terms of less cancer, and fewer heart attacks, strokes and birth complications in the affected population.

The announcement comes with $1 billion in grants to help water systems and private well owners conduct initial testing and treatment. It is part of a $9 billion funding package for removal of the Protection of Firefighters from Acts of Discrimination. The company that made the chemicals is on the hook for billions of dollars in class action lawsuits and money going to public water systems to remove PFAS.

Some of the costs of water can be passed on to consumers if the funds run out or if water systems can’t access them.

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