EPA Adopts New Drinking Water Safety Standards

For the first time, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has implemented national drinking water limits on toxic substances known as perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). The substances are often referred to as “forever chemicals.” PFAS have also been connected to several types of cancer, low birth weight, and other serious health conditions. 

The new rule will require local water utilities nationwide to reduce specified PFAS chemicals to minimum detectable levels. The EPA said the new regulations will lower the risk of PFAS exposure for as many as 100 million Americans.  

 Many utility districts will need to install all-new treatment systems to comply with the standards. The burden of compliance is expected to hit small communities the hardest, as their revenues are already barely sufficient to meet operating expenses. Experts predict compliance with the new PFAS regulations will cost tens of billions of dollars around the country.  

The Biden administration’s rule targets two prevalent PFAS chemicals, PFOA and PFOS, capping them at four parts per trillion and imposing limits on three additional types. Utilities are now tasked with testing for these substances and notifying the public if levels exceed the set thresholds. This comes as part of a broader effort by the EPA, under the Biden administration, to tackle contaminants in drinking water, including a proposal to remove dangerous lead pipes.

While the rule represents a significant step forward in environmental health, the balancing act between public safety and economic feasibility remains a contentious issue. As we move toward a future with cleaner, safer drinking water, the question of who bears the cost of these advancements looms large. The federal bureaucrats who will be put in charge of enforcing the new rule should take into consideration the difficulty that local communities will have in complying with the unfunded federal mandates. Of course, in reality that means that citizens should expect to bear the cost of compliance in addition to the federal, state, and local taxes they already pay.

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