Perfluoroalkyl and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS)
Protecting public health is the Cobb County-Marietta Water Authority's (CCMWA) first core principle concerning PFAS and all drinking water matters. CCMWA's drinking water meets or exceeds all current federal and state standards. While human health impacts from PFAS exposure at levels found in drinking water are uncertain, CCMWA recognizes PFAS as a growing public health concern that merits swift and serious attention.
Perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (also known as PFAS) are a growing family of chemicals developed for the purposes of resisting heat and sticking. On March 14, 2023, the United State Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) proposed a maximum contaminant level (MCL) in drinking water for two PFAS compounds, PFOA and PFOS, at 4 parts per trillion (ppt). A combination of four other PFAS compounds, PFNA, PFHxS, PFBS, GenX, are used to calculate a hazard index.
Unfortunately, humans are exposed to PFAS compounds from many common sources besides drinking water. These other sources include but are not limited to food packaging, cosmetics, non-stick coatings for cookware, flame retardant on clothing, stain-resistant coatings, and even dental floss. There are also many other industrial uses which are releasing these compounds into the environment. Some of these compounds degrade over a few weeks. Others, often called forever chemicals, take many years to degrade.
There are several efforts to determine the prevalence and concentration of PFAS in drinking water in Cobb County. The USEPA is currently requiring quarterly sampling for PFAS in water systems, known as UCMR5, to understand its prevalence. CCMWA's wholesale customers are participating in this effort. CCMWA is sampling drinking water at its water treatment plants every month for the next year to better understand PFAS prevalence and variation throughout the year. One of the four compounds that make up the hazard index, PFBS, was detected at 3.3 ppt, below the USEPA proposed MCL of 4 ppt. This results in a very low number in the Hazard Index calculation. All current sampling has provided results under the proposed MCLs and Hazard Index. One additional compound, PFHxA, was detected at 3 ppt, however, this compound is not currently being considered for drinking water regulation by the USEPA.
Conventional water treatment plants do not have the technology to remove PFAS in the source waters. If stopping the introduction of PFAS into the environment is not possible, testing various advanced technologies is needed to identify the one that will best remove it from the drinking water. CCMWA plans to address this issue in phases by first identifying PFAS prevalence, which is currently ongoing. If PFAS removal is needed, the second phase will test different removal technologies and identify the technology that best removes the PFAS found in our source water. The final phase would be designing, constructing, and implementing the best available PFAS removal technology.
As CCMWA strives to comply with all federal and state regulations, we will continue to monitor the prevalence of these contaminants and take appropriate actions to meet regulations now and in the future. Protecting source water from PFAS contamination is critical. CCMWA urges Congress and other decision-makers to implement policies that keep harmful PFAS out of our communities, especially the nation's drinking water supply.
For additional information about PFAS and the proposed regulations, please visit: