What are PFAS?
Perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a group of chemicals used in fire-fighting foams, non-stick cooking pans (Teflon), and some items to make them stain, grease, heat, and water resistant.
Are PFAS in Our Drinking Water?
Saint Paul Regional Water Services tested for the PFAS in 2005, 2007, 2013, and 2014. PFAS is currently listed as an unregulated contaminant by the Minnesota Department of Health and US-EPA. These tests showed SPRWS has consistently been under the laboratory test methods’ reporting limit. This means that prior to 2015, the concentration of the unregulated compounds was below the sensitivity of the testing instruments and cannot be confidently quantified and therefor is reported as non-detectable.
In late 2019, in conjunction with the Minnesota Department of Health and United States Geological Survey, we conducted additional tests for the unregulated contaminant PFAS to provide more current results with improved sampling and testing procedures. We recently received those results and they are all well below the health risk limit and health based limits established for drinking water by the Minnesota Department of Health. A person drinking water with a contaminant at or below the comparison value would be at little or no risk for harmful health effects.
As part of our testing of drinking water, we monitor for contaminants; both regulated and unregulated. Detection alone of a contaminant should not cause concern. The meaning of any detection should be determined considering current health effects information. We are often still learning about the health effects and improving testing techniques, so this information can change over time. Because these contaminants are unregulated, EPA and MDH require no particular action based on detection of this unregulated contaminant.
How We Protect Water Quality
We work with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) to protect the public health of our customers. We are consistently in compliance with laws and regulations that govern the quality of drinking water.
We also work with other agencies, such as the American Water Works Association and the Partnership for Safe Water, to go beyond the legal requirements of providing quality water that protects public health. We keep up on industry requirements and processes that assist us in providing quality drinking water now and help us prepare for the future.
We are embarking on a 10-year plan to upgrade our water treatment plant. We are looking at incorporating new treatment methods that could be effective in the removal of PFAS.
Keeping PFAS Out of Source Water
The best way to keep drinking water safe is to protect it at its source.
SPRWS encourages customers to reach out to federal and state legislatures in using existing laws and establishing new laws to understand and control PFAS risks before harmful substances are introduced into commerce.
We think those companies producing PFAS–not consumers and water utilities–should be liable for cleaning up drinking water and the environment that have been affected by PFAS. Removal of these chemicals from drinking water is costly and often requires installation of new treatment processes.
These chemicals are man-made and are not naturally occurring.
Where to Go for More Information:
According to the Minnesota Department of Health:
We do NOT have evidence of harm to human health from exposure to PFAS at the current levels found in Minnesotans’ drinking water at this time. The new drinking water guidance represents an increased focus on safety and prevention.
Municipal drinking water continues to be as safe as, or safer than, purchased drinking water. Purchasing drinking water has other negative consequences, including cost, increased trash burden, and heavy use of fossil fuels to transport water.
The MDH has additional information on PFAS in drinking water: