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PFAS Frequently Asked Questions

What is PFAS?

Per and Poly Fluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) are a class of thousands of man-made chemicals that have been manufactured and used in a variety of commercial products since the 1940s.  According to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), these chemicals are very persistent in the environment and in the human body – meaning they do not break down and they can accumulate over time.

What types of products have PFAS?

PFAS has been used in the production of carpets, clothing, fabrics for furniture, cosmetics, paper packaging for food, and other materials (e.g., cookware) that are resistant to water, grease, or stains. They are also used in aqueous firefighting foam and in several other industrial processes. Because these chemicals have been used in such a wide array of consumer products, most people have been exposed to them.

PFAS in Drinking Water

PFAS may be found in drinking water sources due to land application of wastewater or industrial sludges, discharges from wastewater treatment plants and septic systems, use of firefighting foam, and intentional or unintentional spills.  PFAS in drinking water is always the result of human activity and contamination.

How much is too much PFAS in drinking water?

On June 15, 2022, the US EPA published new lifetime health advisory levels for four PFAS compounds (PFOA, PFOS, GenX, and PFBS).  The new lifetime health advisory level for PFOA is 0.004 parts per trillion (ppt – also referred to as nanograms per liter, or ng/L.) while the new lifetime advisory for PFOS is 0.02 ppt.  Previously the lifetime health advisory of these compounds was 70 ppt combined, as set by the EPA.  Health advisory levels are not enforceable regulatory standards. All lifetime health advisory levels take into account other potential sources of exposure beyond drinking water such as food, air, and consumer products.

In June 2021, the Maine Legislature set an enforceable regulatory PFAS standard of 20 ppt.  This standard applies to the cumulative levels of six different PFAS compounds (PFOA, PFOS, PFHxS, PFNA, PFHpA, and PFDA). 

Is there PFAS in Kennebec Water District’s Water (KWD)?

Yes.  Regular water testing since 2019 has confirmed that the water supplied by KWD has PFAS levels ranging from 6 to 9 ppt. Until the June 15, 2022, health advisory level announcement, these levels were well below all regulatory and health advisory levels across the Nation.

What is KWD doing to reduce PFAS levels in drinking water?

After the June 15, 2022, EPA announcement, KWD staff began developing a plan to address PFAS levels in the drinking water.  KWD has begun the process of hiring an engineering firm to evaluate treatment options.  KWD has also requested federal funds to cover the cost of this evaluation.  Evaluating solutions will take many months and implementing a solution will likely take two to three years.  There are no immediate actions KWD can take to reduce the levels of PFAS in the drinking water.

What do I need to do?

If you would like to reduce your exposure to PFAS in drinking water, you may consider installing a point of use treatment system in your home.  Make sure to select a system that is certified to remove PFAS and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for maintenance and/or replacement.    

Why is there PFAS in our drinking water?

China Lake is the sole source of water for KWD.  The level of PFAS in the drinking water is essentially the same as the level of PFAS in China Lake.  The cause of PFAS contamination in China Lake is currently unknown.  However, this contamination illustrates the continuing need to protect sources of drinking water from human activity that might cause contamination. 

What additional steps will KWD be taking?

EPA’s June 15, 2022, announcement included a plan to publish a proposed enforceable regulation in the Fall of 2022.  Once the proposed rule is published, KWD will be in a better position to determine which treatment options will provide the necessary public health protection while meeting the regulatory standards.

KWD will continue to collect water samples to determine if there are any changes to PFAS levels in China Lake.  KWD will continue efforts to protect the water quality in China Lake and deliver high quality water at reasonable rates.

For More Information

More information about PFAS in drinking water can be found on the US Environmental Protection Agency’s website at: www.epa.gov/pfas.