(WJET/WFXP/YourErie.com) — The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is seeking public comment on a new regulation to protect drinking water in Pennsylvania from PFAS chemicals.

The state DEP has announced the 60-day public comment period will begin Feb. 26 and closes April 27.

Pennsylvanians will have the opportunity to comment on the proposed rule to set maximum contaminant levels (MCLs) in drinking water for two forms of per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) – perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) – to protect the public from potential adverse developmental and immune system effects linked to exposure to PFOA and PFOS, according to the DEP.

“Since Governor Tom Wolf signed an executive order in 2018, DEP has worked tirelessly to protect Pennsylvanians from these chemicals. This public comment period allows stakeholders to share their feedback and concerns as we continue to put the safety and health of Pennsylvanians first,” stated DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell.

Congress passed the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) in 1974 to protect public health, including by regulating public water systems, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The DEP reports Pennsylvania state authorities first became aware of PFAS in 2013 when the EPA included perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) in its Third Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule (UCMR) for drinking water.

The proposed rule would set an MCL of 14 parts per trillion (ppt) for PFOA and an MCL of 18 ppt for PFOS, which are stricter limits compared to the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s lifetime Health Advisory Level (HAL) of 70 ppt for PFOS and PFOA combined.

Perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are man-made chemicals, are resistant to heat, water and oil, and persist in the environment and the human body. PFAS are not found naturally in the environment. 

They have been used to make cookware, carpets, clothing, fabrics for furniture, paper packaging for food, and other materials that are resistant to water, grease, or stains. They are also used in firefighting foams and in a number of industrial processes.

PFAS have been associated with adverse health effects but are classified by scientists as emerging chemicals because the risks they pose to human health and the environment are not completely understood.

Public comments can be submitted to the Environmental Quality Board (EQB) through DEP’s eComment system at http://www.ahs.dep.pa.gov/eComment. Comments can also be submitted by e-mail at RegComments@pa.gov. Written comments can be mailed to the Environmental Quality Board, P.O. Box 8477, Harrisburg, PA 17105-8477.

Comments must have a subject heading of the proposed rulemaking and the name and address of the person submitting the comment.

In addition to the public comment period, the EQB will hold five virtual public hearings:

  • Monday, March 21, 2022, at 1:00 p.m.
  • Tuesday, March 22, 2022, at 6:00 p.m.
  • Wednesday, March 23, 2022, at 1:00 p.m.
  • Thursday, March 24, 2022, at 9:00 a.m.
  • Friday, March 25, 2022, at 9:00 a.m.

According to the EPA, about 10 percent of people in the United States rely on water from private wells.

The EPA has guidance online for residents to test their well water. You can also contact your local health department to find out what substances may be common in your area’s groundwater.

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More information on Pennsylvania’s efforts to address PFAS can be found at www.dep.pa.gov/PFAS.