BALTIMORE (April 28, 2022) – The Maryland Department of the Environment has released the results of the second phase of the agency’s sampling of public drinking water systems for a class of chemical compounds known as PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances).
The report describes the results of sampling 65 public water systems across the state. The sampling found no instances of levels exceeding the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s current health advisory of 70 parts per trillion (ppt) of the sum of PFOA and PFOS, the two most studied PFAS compounds. The sampling showed two drinking water systems with levels between 35 and 70 ppt and one other system with a level between 28 and 35 ppt.
Currently, there are no enforceable federal regulatory drinking water standards for PFAS. MDE anticipates that an enforceable federal regulation for PFOA and PFOS will be finalized late next year.
MDE issued a report in July 2021 on the first phase of its sampling initiative, which included testing of 66 community drinking water systems serving about 4.3 million people. MDE has sampled for PFAS at drinking water systems serving about 70% of the state’s population.
“Maryland is committed to reducing the risks of PFAS chemicals in our state and continuing our close coordination with scientific, local, state, and federal partners,” said Maryland Environment Secretary Ben Grumbles. “Our ongoing sampling for PFAS in public drinking water systems is a big part of our comprehensive approach to understanding and communicating risks to reduce the potential for harm.”
PFAS refers to thousands of human-made chemicals that have been used since the 1940s in a range of products, including stain- and water-resistant fabrics and carpeting, cleaning products, paints, cookware, food packaging, and fire-fighting foams. These uses have led to PFAS entering the environment, where they have been measured by several states in soil, surface water, groundwater, and seafood. Most people have been exposed to PFAS because of their use in so many common consumer goods. There is evidence that exposure to certain PFAS — PFOA and PFOS — may lead to adverse health effects in humans.
The risk posed by exposure to PFAS is an emerging and evolving national concern. MDE has initiated a multi-pronged, risk-based, scientific approach to understand and communicate the risks associated with PFAS exposure and to reduce unacceptable risks. An integral part of this is a better understanding of the occurrence of PFAS in public drinking water supplies. After working to identify locations with the highest potential relative risk of PFAS occurrence, in September 2020 MDE initiated the first phase of public water system sampling.
For the second phase of sampling, drinking water systems were selected based on: consumer potential for long term exposure to PFAS, if present; source water vulnerabilities; interest by MDE in determining whether groundwater from confined aquifers is less likely to be impacted by PFAS; and proximity to potential PFAS sources. MDE has encouraged the three systems with levels greater than 28 ppt to conduct regular monitoring for PFAS.
MDE may adjust its monitoring approaches and response to occurrences of PFOA and PFOS across the state’s drinking water sources once EPA finalizes its enforceable regulation for PFOA and PFOS next year.
Sampling for the third phase of MDE efforts to sample public water systems for PFAS began in August 2021 and is expected to continue through late spring 2022. MDE will address any elevated PFAS levels that are detected, and produce a report on these results as well.
In addition to the department’s commitment to understanding PFAS in drinking water, MDE is also evaluating PFAS levels in seafood (in recreationally caught fish and blue crabs), wastewater, and other potential sources such as sewage sludge. Information on Maryland and PFAS, including the new report, is available on MDE’s website.