Water Quality

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Unlike many areas of the country, Monroe County has more than enough water to satisfy current and future needs. Our water source, Lake Ontario, and the other Great Lakes contain 20% of the world’s fresh water!

EPA Drinking Water Health Advisories for PFAS

Summary

Public health protection is our highest priority. The Monroe County Water Authority provides drinking water that is safe, high-quality, and in compliance with all federal and state water quality regulatory standards. On June 15, 2022, the US EPA released four (4) new drinking water health advisories for concentrations of man-made chemicals called per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in drinking water.

What are PFAS?

PFAS are a group of manufactured chemicals that have been widely used in industrial and consumer products since the 1940s. Examples include carpets, clothing, textiles, food packaging, firefighting compounds, and many other modern industrial products. There are thousands of different PFAS compounds, some of which have been more widely used and studied than others. The EPA says most people are exposed to these chemicals through consumer products. Drinking water can be an additional source of exposure in communities where these chemicals have entered the water supplies.

Perfluorooactanoic acid (PFOA) and Perfluorooactane Sulfonate (PFOS) are two of the widely used and studied chemicals in the PFAS group. PFOA and PFOS have been replaced for use in the United States with other PFAS in recent years. In chemical and product manufacturing, Hexafluoropropylene oxide dimer acid (HFPO-DA), otherwise known as GenX, chemicals are considered a replacement for PFOA, and Perflurobutane Sulfonate (PFBS) is considered a replacement for PFOS.

The EPA regulates the safe levels of more than one hundred compounds in drinking water under the Safe Drinking Water Act requirements. In many areas of the country, PFAS compounds are considered ubiquitous in the environment. Currently, there are no federal regulations for PFAS.

What is a Health Advisory and what are the Health Advisory Levels?

Drinking water health advisories provide information on contaminants that can cause human health effects and are known or anticipated to occur in drinking water. EPA’s health advisories are non-enforceable and non-regulatory. Instead, the advisories are interim guidance issued before the EPA develops a formal regulation. Health advisories provide technical information to states agencies such as the New York State and local departments of health and other public health officials on health effects, analytical test methods, and treatment technologies associated with drinking water contamination. EPA first issued a health advisory level for PFOA and PFOS in 2016 at 70 parts per trillion (ppt).

EPA’s June 15, 2022 action established interim and final health advisory levels for four PFAS compounds. These new levels include:

  • Interim updated Health Advisory for PFOA = 0.004 ppt
  • Interim updated Health Advisory for PFOS = 0.02 ppt
  • Final Health Advisory for GenX chemicals = 10 ppt
  • Final Health Advisory for PFBS = 2,000 ppt

For perspective, 1 part per trillion is equal to 1 second in 31,710 years or 1 drop of water in 20 Olympic-sized swimming pools. These new health advisories are also below current means of detection and the measurement abilities of scientific equipment.

Are there state regulations for concentrations of PFAS in drinking water?

Yes. On August 20, 2020, New York revised state Public Health Law and adopted new drinking water standards for public water systems that set maximum contaminants levels (MCLs) of 10 ppt for concentrations of PFOA and PFOS. The new standards require public water systems to regularly monitor for PFOA and PFOS, notify health departments and the public of confirmed exceedances, and work with health departments on a compliance timetable and plan to reduce the concentration levels of these chemicals below the MCL.

What are the PFAS levels in MCWA’s drinking water?

The Monroe County Water Authority performs quarterly water quality testing for PFAS compounds on our source waters, treated drinking water leaving our water treatment plants, and at entry points to our distribution system for water we purchase from the city of Rochester and Erie County Water Authority. Summaries of these and all our water quality testing results we submit for compliance with federal and state water quality regulations can be viewed on our website by visiting or clicking links in the following website: http://exb4.getthedateright.com/my-water/water-quality/water-quality-reports/.

What is MCWA doing about PFAS in drinking water?

Our drinking water we supply remains in compliance with current federal and state water quality standards and regulations. We recognize concentrations of some PFAS compounds are above the EPA’s new health advisory levels. That is why more research and investment is needed. Specifically, we seek to:

  • Continue robust testing and monitoring for levels of PFAS in our water
  • Develop understanding of other established and emerging treatment options
  • Develop practical and feasible strategies to reduce levels of PFAS as EPA and New York state establish future drinking water standards

Again, public health and the quality of your drinking water is our top priority.

For questions and more information

  • For questions about specific health concerns, talk to your health care provider who is most familiar with your health history and can provide advice and assistance about understanding how drinking water may affect your personal health.
  • For questions about levels of contaminants in our water supply, our regulatory compliance monitoring program, water treatment processes, or general questions, contact Customer Service at 442-7200.
  • For more information about drinking water regulations, health advisories, or advice about your drinking water, contact your local health department:
    • Monroe County Residents: Monroe County Department of Public Health 753-5057.
    • Orleans County Residents: Orleans County Department of Health 589-3278.
    • Genesee County Residents: Genesee County Department of Health 344-2580 ext. 5555.
    • Wyoming County Residents: Wyoming County Department of Health 786-8894.
    • Livingston County Residents: Livingston County Department of Health 243-7280.
    • Ontario County Residents: NYSDOH, Geneva District Office (315) 789-3030.
    • Wayne County Residents: NYSDOH, Geneva District Office (315) 789-3030.

References and Resources:

EPA – Drinking Water Health Advisories for PFOA and PFOS
http://www.epa.gov/sdwa/drinking-water-health-advisories-pfoa-and-pfos

EPA – Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA)
http://www.epa.gov/sdwa

NYSDOH – Public Water Systems and NYS Drinking Water Standards for PFOA, PFOS and 1,4-Dioxane
http://www.health.ny.gov/environmental/water/drinking/docs/water_supplier_fact_sheet_new_mcls.pdf

NYSDOH – Drinking Water Protection Program
http://www.health.ny.gov/environmental/water/drinking/