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May 11, 2021 - Herring Urges EPA to Require Public Water Systems to Monitor for Additional “Forever” Chemicals

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Commonwealth of Virginia Office of the Attorney General

Mark Herring Attorney General

202 North Ninth Street Richmond, Virginia 23219


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~ Monitoring for these “forever” chemicals will provide valuable data on the occurrence of contamination in public water supplies around the country ~

RICHMOND – Attorney General Mark R. Herring has joined a coalition of 19 attorneys general in filing comments with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) supporting the agency’s proposal to include 29 per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, more commonly known as PFAS of “forever” chemicals, in the fifth Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule (UCMR 5). Through UCMR 5, the EPA will require public water systems to monitor for these “forever” chemicals, which will provide valuable data about the occurrence of PFAS contamination in public water supplies around the country.


While supportive of requiring public water systems to monitor for these 29 PFAS, Attorney General Herring and his colleagues also asked the EPA to: (1) require monitoring for total PFAS; (2) promptly validate an analytical method for total PFAS; (3) advance environmental justice with PFAS monitoring; and (4) lower the minimum reporting levels for the PFAS included in UCMR 5.


“High levels of these ‘forever chemicals’ in public water supplies can have long-lasting negative effects on communities and the people living in them, especially in areas surrounding military bases and installations,” said Attorney General Herring. “Virginia is home to many military bases, which means that these communities are even more susceptible to having these dangerous chemicals in their drinking water. It’s so important to ensure that all Virginians have access to clean, healthy drinking water, which is why I’m calling on the EPA to more closely monitor PFAS levels in public water supplies.”


PFAS chemicals resist degradation in the environment and accumulate in the body. Those contaminants may be linked to serious adverse health effects in humans and animals. Epidemiologic studies have shown that potential adverse human health effects from exposure to some PFAS include increased serum cholesterol, immune dysregulation, pregnancy-induced hypertension, and kidney and testicular cancers. Exposure to certain types of PFAS is also associated with low birthweight in humans, suppressed immune system response, dyslipidemia, impaired kidney function, and delayed onset of menstruation.


In October 2020, Attorney General Herring urged Congressional leadership to require the Department of Defense to protect service members from contamination by “forever” chemicals or PFAS. Across the country, PFAS contamination is most often associated with military bases, firefighting training centers, civilian airports, and industrial facilities. PFAS chemicals tend to be persistent in the environment and have been used for decades as ingredients in firefighting foam. Some states with significant PFAS contamination are currently spending tens of millions of dollars to address the contamination in public drinking water systems, and to investigate numerous areas and sources of potential contamination.


Attorney General Herring and his colleagues say in their letter to the EPA, “The States have a strong interest in ensuring that their residents have access to safe drinking water. Although numerous studies have shown that exposures to PFAS negatively affect human health, there is currently no national requirement that all public water systems test for and remove unsafe levels of PFAS in drinking water. Millions of people across the United States are exposed to PFAS-contaminated drinking water and widespread releases of PFAS into the environment. The States have limited resources to comprehensively assess and address PFAS. Therefore, it is crucial for EPA to broadly regulate PFAS under the SDWA to protect public health and the environment and to do so in accordance with the States’ proposed enhancements to the UCMR 5.”


Joining Attorney General Herring in sending this letter are the attorneys general of California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Washington, and Wisconsin.


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