The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) has announced an agreement with the Water Infrastructure Finance Authority of Arizona (WIFA) to dedicate $3 million of federal Safe Drinking Water Act funds to ensure that every public water system in Arizona is tested for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).
ADEQ’s proactive sampling plan goes above and beyond the PFAS sampling the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will require for Arizona public water systems as part of its fifth Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule (UCMR5). EPA’s UCMR5 only will require public water systems that serve more than 3,300 customers to test for PFAS. In Arizona, small water systems serving less than 3,300 people account for 90 percent or about 1,200 of the approximate 1,500 public water systems. ADEQ will sample these small drinking water systems, which serve nearly half a million people, for PFAS and our results will complement EPA’s data.
“ADEQ is committed to ensuring that all public water systems in Arizona are tested for PFAS — regardless of the number of people they serve,” said ADEQ Water Quality Division Director Trevor Baggiore. “Sampling all public water systems is critical to understanding where PFAS is so that steps can be taken to reduce people’s exposure to PFAS in drinking water and to connect affected public water systems to funding sources to achieve solutions.”
ADEQ’s statewide PFAS sampling plan will include all Arizona public water systems that have not yet been tested by ADEQ, the public water system or for EPA’s UCMR. ADEQ will begin contacting public water systems to coordinate the free sampling in October, which will be conducted over the next year. If a public water system already is sampling for PFAS, ADEQ will request their data.
To date, 287 of the more than 1,500 public water systems in Arizona already have been tested for some combination of PFAS compounds with ADEQ conducting the sampling and testing for 207 of these systems. When ADEQ’s sampling results show a public water system has a PFAS detection higher than an EPA health advisory level, ADEQ contacts the public water system to discuss EPA’s recommendations that they take steps to inform customers; undertake additional sampling to assess the level, scope, and source of contamination; and examine steps to limit exposure.
PFAS are a group of man-made chemicals with fire-retardant properties that have been used commercially in the United States to make products like stain and water resistant carpet and textiles, food packaging, firefighting foam, as well as in other industrial processes. Some PFAS can accumulate in people, animals, and the environment over time. While consumer products and food are the largest source of exposure to these chemicals for most people, drinking water can be an additional source of exposure in communities where these chemicals are in water supplies. A lifetime of exposure to certain PFAS levels in drinking water is associated with negative health effects.
In Arizona, PFAS compounds have been detected in 56 public water systems and ADEQ already has worked with 13 of these systems to resolve the PFAS issue. PFAS resolution options must be carefully determined and consider the number of people served, system design, and the level of PFAS reduction needed. These options generally include installing a PFAS treatment unit, turning off an impacted well (if other wells are in production), installing in-home point-of-use water treatment systems, and others. For the remaining systems with known PFAS detections, ADEQ is providing a PFAS toolkit that contains information regarding the effectiveness of treatment technologies and where to find funding.
“Right now, EPA’s PFAS health advisories are non-regulatory and non-enforceable,” Baggiore added. “But we expect the EPA to set national PFAS drinking water standards that public water systems must meet as early as the end of next year. The PFAS data we’ve collected since 2018, along with our statewide sampling effort over the next year, have well-positioned Arizona to identify and work with public water systems to address PFAS drinking water challenges early and head on. Our proactive efforts also will ensure that Arizona’s public water systems — including small systems — are able to leverage existing funding sources as well as new sources we expect to become available this fall.”
WIFA anticipates receiving initial allocations of $13,587,000 to the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund and $632,000 to the Clean Water State Revolving Fund from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act in October 2022, specifically to address emerging contaminants. WIFA has also submitted a letter of intent for approximately $17.6 million in additional funding under the federal Emerging Contaminants in Small or Disadvantaged Communities Grant. Once available, the funds would be used to assist public water systems in small or disadvantaged communities with addressing PFAS and other emerging contaminants in drinking water.