Local governments react to new PFAs values from EPA


Spring is in the air, and with it come new enforceable standards from the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) in relation to per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAs. Commonly used in manufacturing and known as “forever chemicals” due to their relative stability in the environment, several PFAs have been tied to health issues, including cancer.
Announced April 10, the new standards from the Environmental Protection Agency follow a nationwide public hearing and review period, the new limits reducing from parts per billion (ppt) to parts per trillion (ppt) the PFAs standards for safe drinking water. The new EPA limits for enforceable PFAs levels are as follows:
• PFOA (Perfluorooctanoic acid) at 4 parts per trillion (ppt)
• PFOS (Perfluorooctane sulfonic acid) at 4 ppt.
• PFNA (Perfluorononanoic acid) at 10 ppt
• PFHxS (Perfluorohexane sulfonate) at 10 ppt
• GenX (HFPO-DA) at 10 ppt, and
• PFAs mixtures with at least one or more of PFHxS, PFNA, HFDO-DA, and PFBS with value of 1, as measured on a hazard index.

The new rules call for public water systems to monitor these contaminants with three years for initial compliance. Systems found to be in violation of the above Maximum Contaminant Levels (MCLs) have five years to be in compliance, and must take action to reduce levels of PFAs in their water as well as provide notification to the public of the violation. Among current treatment approaches is the use of granular activated carbon, which captures the PFAs to remove them from the water.
With South Washington County communities included in a 3M settlement that calls for building permanent water treatment plants, the new standards flag 22 communities across Minnesota, including Woodbury, Newport, and Hastings. Following are statements by local government on the newly announced MCLs and their impact on the water supply.

Cottage Grove Mayor Myron Bailey:
“Recently the Environmental Protection Agency released Maximum Contaminant Levels, or MCLs, that will regulate several PFAs compounds in the Cottage Grove water supply. While these new enforceable standards are very restrictive and will have impacts across the country, I want to assure you that Cottage Grove’s water is compliant with these new rules. Cottage Grove is well situated with the interim water treatment plants that have been constructed in the city, to meet the standards set by the EPA. While water suppliers have five years to meet these new standards, Cottage Grove’s five interim water treatment plants provide treated water to ensure that we meet them today. Also, the city is wrapping up construction on two additional interim water treatment plants that will be operational prior to the summer of 2024. These new interim plants will allow the city to supply the higher summer water demands, while continuing to meet the new MCLs that have been set. As with the five existing plants, these two new plants are being built at no cost to the city. The city continues to make great progress on our long term solutions to addressing PFAs in drinking water. This includes two permanent water treatment plants that are being funded by the 3M settlement; one south of Highway 61 that is currently under construction, and a second north of Highway 61 that will have a bid date in late 2024. As always, the city of Cottage Grove is committed to providing drinking water that meets all state and federal standards. Both with our interim treatment facilities and the permanent facilities that will serve our community for generations to come. You can find more information on our website by searching “Clean Water for Cottage Grove. In closing, the City of Cottage Grove’s water meets the new standards set by the EPA.”

Newport Mayor Laurie Elliot:
“The Environmental Protection Agency announcement about new health standards for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) has minimal impact on Newport’s water system. One of the City’s two municipal wells has tested slightly above the new EPA health standards, however our second well tests below the standard. City staff has the flexibility to operate the water system in a manner that commingles water from well number one (1) and well number two (2). The result of this operational flexibility allows the City to conform with the new health standard.
“Newport is working with the Minnesota Department of Health, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, the City of Woodbury, and the City of Cottage Grove to plan for the future of our water system and to provide the safest water possible for the residents of Newport. This is the highest priority for the Newport City Council and me. We will continue to provide updates on any new standards and changes to our water system going forward.”

Woodbury Mayor Anne Hurlburt:
“Today’s Environmental Protection Agency announcement about new health standards for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) has no immediate impact on Woodbury’s municipal water system. Our years of proactive work on temporary water treatment for PFAS, operational adjustments, and our progress on permanent treatment solutions position the city well for mitigating PFAS impacts. We will continue providing the highest quality water possible to our residents.
“All wells with current health advisories are being treated. Additional wells that receive future health advisories will remain available for service to meet short duration water demand needs, which will typically occur only in summer months. Operationally they will be placed low/last in use order, eliminating their use as much as possible and limiting use on those days of peak demand in combination with use of wells receiving treatment, commingling the water within the system.
“We ask for our community’s support in reducing water use – particularly during the summer lawn-watering season – while we finish designing, constructing, and bringing into service the long-term water treatment plant. We’ll keep the public informed as we learn more about these changes or any additional future health standards changes or health advisories issued by the Minnesota Department of Health.”