Testing for perfluorinated compounds

Perfluorinated compounds are under consideration by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for possible regulation. As discussed below, OWASA has tested for perfluorinated compounds in its drinking water as part of an EPA program to gather data on compounds that are not currently regulated.

In 2013 and 2014, we analyzed our drinking water four times for six perfluorinated compounds including perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA). 

In one of the four OWASA drinking water samples tested for perfluorinated compounds, PFOA was detected at a level of 0.03 parts per billion, which is below the 2016 EPA Lifetime Health Advisory Level for PFOA of 0.070 parts per billion.  We do not have evidence as to why we had this one low-level detection. 

This sample with a low, but measurable level of PFOA was followed by two later samples in which no perfluorinated compounds were detected.  The EPA will use our test results, along with data from other utilities, in making future regulatory decisions. 

Our Cane Creek Reservoir and University Lake watersheds are highly protected.  They do not contain any known direct industrial sources of perfluorinated compounds, nor do they contain the types of sites researchers have found correlate with elevated levels of perfluorinated compounds in drinking water. These types of sites are military fire training areas, wastewater treatment plant discharges, and civilian airports with personnel trained in firefighting.

We reported the above results in our 2014 Water Quality Report Card.  Additionally, all our monitoring results for unregulated compounds are available here.

Our perfluorinated compound data was collected as part of the EPA’s Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule (UCMR).  The UCMR is a tool the EPA uses to collect occurrence data for compounds that are suspected to be present in drinking water, but do not have health-based standards set under the Safe Drinking Water Act.  OWASA participated with other water utilities by testing our drinking water for a set of compounds chosen by the EPA, including six perfluorinated compounds.  The data from this program are used by the EPA in creating new regulations and health-based standards such as the Health Advisory Level for PFOA instituted in 2016.  These data are also publicly available and used by researchers and news sources.

The EPA has created a PFOA Stewardship Program, through which production of PFOA in the US is being phased out, eliminating major sources of PFOA in the environment.