It’s a bold action which reflects what health authorities and local campaigners affirm is an overdue initiative.

For the first time ever, the Biden government has suggested federal beverage water regulations for the use of toxic chemicals in manufacturing materials such as Teflon, stain-resistant carpets, and military firefighting foam. It is forecasted that 200 million people in America have their drinking water contaminated by these harmful compounds.

This determined deed symbolizes the judgement of medical professionals and civic activists, who consider there must be a serious attempt to reduce the widespread pollution due to PFAS “everlasting” chemicals. This type of contamination is linked to cancer, reproductive issues, and numerous other health troubles. If established, this regulation would be the initial significant reform in safeguarding the United States’s drinking water supply in 30 years.

In total, there are approximately 12,000 substances that fall under the category of PFAS. These compounds possess robust chemical attachment which makes them quite useful as a non-stick agents; though this same trait means they remain in our environment and accumulate in individuals’ bodies. Investigations have revealed these chemicals in almost everyone’s bloodstream, which is why the EPA has established regulations limiting six of these substances’ concentrations in drinking water – a measure that is predicted to rescue tens of thousands of lives, and reduce severe illnesses significantly.

Nevertheless, the agency admits that in the start, citizens in the U.S. would bear the annual cost of $772 million through higher rates for water.

Radhika Fox, the number one water administrator from the Environmental Protection Agency, expressed in a talk that the moment is here. “The population of America has high expectations; they want nothing less than to be sure their drinking water is safe,” she mentioned emphatically.

On Tuesday, the EPA published a regulatory strategy which mandates utilities to completely eradicate PFOS and PFOA, the two most infamous compounds in the class, from their drinking water sources. Before they were eliminated from being manufactured in 2002 and 2015 respectively, these ingredients were utilized in products such as Teflon and Scotchguard, as well as firefighting foam.

The EPA recently introduced an unexpected stipulation with the aim of curbing synthetic compounds utilised by businesses after the phasing out of certain materials, PFOA and PFOS; corporations declared that these replacements were less risky, however federal investigators concluded that they presented serious risks.

Previously, the EPA identified only PFOA and PFOS as substances to be monitored by the federal government. However, in the 3 years after the Trump administration first made this conclusion, mounting research has shown that these other chemicals are widespread and can cause harm. As a result, several states have implemented their own regulations.

Given their distinct composition, eliminating these newer contaminants in public water sources would necessitate a different form of treatment. Worried that water systems would need to add new apparatus to tackle all PFAS without any help from the EPA, drinking water professionals were apprehensive. However, the administering authority’s decision to control these chemicals with increased speed yet an unorthodox path might endanger the legitimacy of this provision.

The newly introduced rule would call for cities to test the presence of four distinguishing materials, referred to as GenX, PFBS, PFHxS and PFNA, in their sources of water. A “hazard index” evaluation will be performed using these results which is designed to account for the reality that chemical mixtures involving multiple strains of PFAS can sometimes be more perilous than every individual part taken together.

Utilizing the hazard index, utilities would be able to determine if potentially hazardous levels of chemicals exist, which would subsequently necessitate the treatment of their water in order to reduce those chemicals or else turn to another source.

Environmental organisations and public health champions celebrated the proposal as a tremendous step in tackling the extended contamination issues on Tuesday. Additionally, this motion was also blessed by a senior Republican from Congress who is from an area where PFAS pollution has been a concern.

Senator Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia commented in an official statement that she had been appealing to the three successive governments from distinct political organizations for quite a few years and was delighted that an acceptable drinking water norm for PFOA and PFOS finally has been issued.

The chemical industry has declared their disapproval of the proposal, as it regards their previously created and presently produced products. The American Chemistry Council issued a statement saying that they have “substantial doubts about the scientific support” used to construct the plan.

Drinking water utilities and their customers would not be able to meet the proposal’s requirements without incurring a high cost. Already, organizations representing water authorities have expressed their worries regarding this. The US Environmental Protection Agency approximates that it will take about $772 million annually for the upgrades of water treatment stations, together with monitoring and continuous treatment in line with the regulation. That is lower than the estimated savings of $1.2 billion from eliminating these elements, primarily through health-care savings and attempts to stave off deaths too early. However, it still causes pain within people’s wallets, particularly for those that are currently having trouble paying for this service already.

The drinking water supply company which handles Wilmington, N.C., where the plan was presented on Tuesday, laid out $43 million to revamp its water purification plants to eliminate PFAS that had been released by a chemical plant into the Cape Fear. The factory administrators suppose it will cost approximately $5 million each year to manage the system, boosting customers’ monthly payments by an average of $5.

An announcement from the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies inferred that the EPA’s cost calculations are too minimal, claiming that if sixteen water firms needed to install modifications analogous to Wilmington’s, it would be more costly than what is estimated by the agency.

Tom Dobbins, CEO of the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies, expressed concern in a statement regarding the financial impact this new regulatory framework may have on water authorities.

The 2021 bipartisan infrastructure agreement provides access to new federal funds that could serve as a possible means of recouping some costs, this includes $5 billion for underserved and small communities.

“It might not be sufficient to cover all water utilities nationwide, nonetheless it’s a step in the right direction,” asserted EPA Administrator Michael Regan as he declared the plan.

In the end, the Biden government is aiming to make polluters take responsibility for their actions. The EPA put forward a plan to consider PFOA and PFOS as potentially perilous under the Superfund statute last summer and is studying potential similar action for additional types of PFAS. If this occurs, the EPA and other organizations could require those who produced the contamination to bear the costs of cleansing it.

Still, even if the regulations are implemented as intended, it’s likely that utility companies and their customers will have to pay upfront for the necessary improvements before any of the money will be available in years or even decades.

It is uncertain if the new drinking water regulation will even be concluded. The Defense Department, with its substantial expenses for contamination control at around 700 places in America that has persisted through numerous years, has hindered and debilitated prior EPA endeavors on PFAS.

The long-awaited drinking water measure was kept at the White House in between different departments for a duration of five months before being unveiled, prompted by environmentalists, activists and a group of legislators from a cross-party alliance. This campaign to propagate the new law was spearheaded by Mark Ruffalo, who featured in ‘Dark Waters’ (2019), dealing with PFOA. It was complemented by an effort that Senator Shelley Moore Capito and Tom Carper – Senate Environment & Public Works Committee chairperson – rode out privately on the White House, persuading President Joe Biden.

Environmental advocates are actively battling against anticipated attacks regarding the new regulation. 

According to Jonathan Kalmuss-Katz, an attorney with Earthjustice, a not-for-profit organization, this proposal is a crucial first step in coping with the nation’s PFAS crisis. He stressed that EPA must be unwavering in their stance to protect people’s health by providing limits on the six chemicals and targeting other PFAS that could poison drinking water supplies and cause harm across the nation.