Caroline MacGregor Published

State Moves To Protect Water Supply From PFAS

A picture of food and packaging that contains forever chemicals known as PFAS
The PFAS molecule from the "forever chemicals."
Courtesy of the Food and Drug Administration

During his weekly briefing, the Gov. Jim Justice said West Virginia has taken steps to meet federal guidelines to lower PFAS, or forever chemicals, in the state’s water supplies. 

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) this week announced a proposal to limit PFAS chemical compounds (PFOA and PFOS) in drinking water to four parts per trillion.

Per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are present throughout our society and in thousands of products in the industrial, food and textile industries. They’re used in firefighting foams, food packaging, cleaning products, and household items like non-stick cookware. 

State Health Officer Dr. Matthew Christiansen said as the health impacts of PFAS have become more apparent, the Public Health Department is working closely with its state and federal partners to monitor the problem.

“Now as we’re learning more about these and the science is becoming more clear, we’re learning that they are possible carcinogens and can create other adverse health impacts with exposure over a long period of time,” he said.

According to Christiansen, the United States Geological Survey has surveyed the raw water for 279 water systems throughout West Virginia. He said 37 of those were identified by the EPA as having levels of PFOA or PFOS in the raw water source.

He said the state has established a working group to provide support to the state’s public water systems.

“At the direction of the governor, the DHHR and the DEP, we have proactively reached out to water systems in West Virginia in preparation of these revised EPA guidelines,” Christiansen said.

The collaboration between the DHHR and DEP is expected to provide a venue for communication about best practices in the state’s mitigation of PFAS and their compounds.

“We believe that these proposed maximum contaminant levels for PFAS are achievable for the majority of our water systems here in West Virginia,” Christian said.

More than $18 million the state received in EPA funding will be used for things like research and testing, treatment, source water control, restructuring or consolidation, and technical assistance.

Under the state’s response efforts to lower PFAS in water supplies, it’s expected that some public water systems will need to install additional mitigation plans to treat PFAS moving forward.