Source: News & Observer
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Michael Regan was in Maysville, N.C., earlier this month to call for stricter laws when it comes to companies contaminating drinking water with unregulated chemicals, The News & Observer reported.
Regan, a Goldsboro native and the former head of North Carolina’s Department of Environmental Quality (NCDEQ), said that laws need to change in order to address the problem.
“We have to be very realistic about the fact that we have to change the law in this country,” he said. “The laws of this country allow for chemical compounds to be put out in the atmosphere and in our water without having to prove that they are not harmful. So there’s an element of this of catch-if-you-can with industry.”
Regan was in the town to announce that the EPA is making $2 billion in grant funds available to help water treatment systems with fewer than 10,000 customers remove “forever chemicals” from their drinking water supplies, according to The N&O.
This particular issue is not foreign to Regan. As the secretary of NCDEQ, he was tasked with battling the contamination of the Cape Fear River by companies like Chemours, who dumped toxic per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) into the river for decades.
According to the N.C. Policy Collaboratory, a 2019 sample of Maysville’s water showed the presence of a combination of PFOA and PFOS of 103 parts per trillion (ppt) – significantly higher than the EPA’s then-lifetime health advisory for total PFOA and PFOS of 70 ppt. What that means is that lifetime exposure to more than 70 ppt would be expected to result in health impacts.
Last year, the EPA lowered its interim health advisory levels to 0.004 ppt for PFOA and 0.02 ppt for PFOS, effectively declaring that any detection of the chemicals is unsafe, The N&O reported. That means that Maysville’s combination of PFOA and PFOS is approximately 3.4 million times higher than the EPA’s newest health advisory levels when averaged out at 0.003 ppt.
According to The N&O, researchers and Maysvilles officials believe the source of the contamination of their drinking water is firefighting foam.
Regan told The N&O that there are other small towns across the country facing the same problems as Maysville.
“There’s a priority in terms of which smaller communities have identified that they have a PFAS problem and can work directly with the state without the match, specifically designed for towns like Maysville which we know have small populations, no tax base, no way of tackling this issue on their own,” he said.