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Drinking Water Sampling and Testing for Perfluorochemicals

The Navy is in the process of testing finished drinking water at Navy public water systems in accordance with OPNAV policy for two specific perfluorochemicals (PFCs).  U.S. systems that produce drinking water from installation sources where PFCs are known or suspected to have been released within approximately 1-mile up-gradient to the drinking water source must be sampled for PFCs in finished drinking water.  Only eight U.S. Navy public water systems met this requirement.  All Navy overseas installation water systems will also be sampled for PFCs in finished drinking water under the policy.

PFCs are man-made chemicals persistent in the environment that are not absorbed well in soil and could migrate to groundwater.  PFCs have been used since the 1950s in a variety of products and substances because of their stain and water repellant properties; the most common historical Navy use of the substances has been in Aqueous Film-Forming Foam (AFFF), a fire extinguishing agent.    At this time PFCs are considered emerging contaminants for which there are no Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) regulatory standards.  The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is working to improve its understanding of PFCs to determine if safe drinking water regulatory limits are needed.  The Navy is following the EPA’s guideline for unregulated contaminate monitoring, including only using laboratories approved by EPA to perform the PFC analysis.

EPA has issued Provisional Health Advisories (PHAs) for Perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), which are PFCs found in AFFF.  The PHAs establish limits for PFCs in drinking water of 0.2 micrograms per liter of water (μg/L) for PFOS and 0.4 μg/L for PFOA.  While EPA continues its research on these chemicals, it’s important to note that PHAs are designed to have a significant built-in cushion of protection to account for uncertainties related to toxicity and other sources of exposure.  PHAs are not regulatory levels, but rather are levels above which actions should be taken to reduce exposure.  Additional information can be found on the EPA website

Out of an abundance of caution, the Navy PFC testing and response goes beyond Safe Drinking Water Act requirements. The Navy is working with local and state (environmental and health) agencies and the EPA as we move forward with testing of drinking water.


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