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What EPA's New PFAS Guidelines Mean For You

Analies Dyjak @ Friday, June 17, 2022 at 3:11 pm -0400

Analies Dyjak, M.A. | Head of Policy and Perspectives   

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) just announced a dramatic decrease in what they’re considering a “safe” level of certain PFAS in drinking water. EPA’s recent announcement reiterates just how serious the PFAS crisis has become in the U.S. What do these new “safe levels” mean for you and what action do you need to take?

EPA's New Guidelines for PFAS

**UPDATE: On April 10, 2024, the US EPA has announced drinking water standards to limit exposure to 6 types of PFAS chemicals.


In June 2022, EPA proposed 
reducing the current Health Advisory Level of 70 parts per trillion for PFOA and PFOS combined, to 0.004 parts per trillion for PFOA and 0.02 parts per trillion for PFOS. This reduction is over 17,000 times lower than what was considered safe by EPA just 6 years ago. EPA also introduced Health Advisory Levels of 10 parts per trillion for GenX and 2,000 parts per trillion for PFBS. It’s important to note that a Health Advisory Level is the amount of a contaminant that is NOT likely to cause negative health impacts. For example, drinking water with PFBS at a concentration above 2,000 parts per trillion could cause adverse health effects, according to EPA.

EPA admits that these super low levels could be very difficult to identify with current methods of detection: “It is possible for PFOA or PFOS to be present in drinking water at levels that exceed health advisories even if testing indicates no level of these chemicals” and that PFOA and PFOS can only “be reliably measured using specified analytical methods in appropriate laboratory settings.” While the intention of these new Health Advisory Levels are in good faith, they’re setting up municipal treatment plants to fail - especially those in rural and underfunded communities. 

How Will The New PFAS Guidelines Impact You?

The general public likely won’t feel any real impacts for several years. Interim levels, and health advisory levels in general, are entirely non-enforceable. This means that water providers are not legally bound to meet these lower recommendations anytime soon. The goal of health advisories is that they will eventually turn into enforceable standards, which EPA has plans to implement in 2023. The only real impact to public health is that PFAS levels that were once considered “safe” by EPA are now potentially dangerous.

Takeaways and Red Flags

First, these new health advisory levels are unattainable by nearly every single public water utility in the country. Not only will someone (taxpayers) have to pay for new treatment technology, but it could take years if not decades to get new treatment up and running. It’s unclear what will happen to utility providers if they violate this law, or what people are supposed to do while these new guidelines take effect. Second, these new guidelines don’t address the root of the problem. PFAS are still being produced in the U.S., and are still a key ingredient in several consumer products. Even though drinking water has the potential to be addressed, there are hundreds of other ways that people are exposed to PFAS chemicals. Finally, this new change only addresses four of the over 9,000 different PFAS variations that are being found in the environment.

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New Asbestos Ban Could Increase Use and Release of PFAS Chemicals

Analies Dyjak @ Tuesday, May 31, 2022 at 4:43 pm -0400
EPA recently proposed a ban on a certain type of Asbestos that’s still being imported into the U.S. today. Experts and regulators worry that this ban will increase the use of a different toxic chemical that’s already of concern in all 50 states. 

Over 60% of Toxic Wastewater Biosolids Are Used To Fertilize Farmland in The U.S.

Analies Dyjak @ Wednesday, May 18, 2022 at 5:45 pm -0400
Over 60% of leftover sewage waste or "biosolids" are used by farmers to fertilize crops in the U.S. A recent study found that a category of cancer-causing chemicals called PFAS were present in a majority of the fertilizing sludge - impacting food, livestock, and ultimately drinking water. Farmers expect that the biosolids coming from municipalities are entirely safe to use on their crops. Consumers also have this same expectation when buying produce at the grocery store. The reality is that municipalities don't even know the extent of what's hiding in sewage biosolids, but continue to encourage farmers to use it. Here's everything you need to know about biosolids and why farmers are still allowed to use it. 

Why You Should Change Your Hydroviv Water Filter Cartridge Every 6 Months:

Analies Dyjak @ Wednesday, April 27, 2022 at 3:35 pm -0400

Eric Roy, Ph.D. | Hydroviv's Scientific Founder   

Much like changing a car’s oil is necessary for a car to operate, replacing the cartridge in your Hydroviv water filter is necessary to ensure that your filter is producing safe drinking water for you and your family. This article discusses the most frequently asked questions that we get about cartridge replacement.

Why Do I Have To Change My Water Filter Cartridge?

The performance of a water filter cartridge against dissolved and particulate contaminants is dictated by two main factors: #1. pore structure and #2. active media blend. A water filter must be changed regularly because as water flows through the filter over time, the pore structure can become clogged with particulate matter and active media becomes saturated with chemicals. When the capacity of either is exceeded, the filter no longer performs as designed.

How Do I Know When It’s Time To Change My Water Filter Cartridge?

While it’s easy to tell if particulate matter has filled up the filter’s pores (flow rate slows down), it’s not as straightforward to tell if a filter has been saturated by dissolved chemicals without laboratory testing. This is where 3rd party testing & certifications come in. For example, as part of Hydroviv’s NSF Certification Program, our drinking water cartridges were shown to filter chemicals like PFAS, lead, and VOCs for over 720 gallons before performance tapered, which translates to a 6 month replacement interval for over 95% of Hydroviv customers.

What Happens When You Don’t Change Your Filters’ Cartridge? 

When a filter is used beyond the capacity, filtration performance drops and can reach a point where the filter can release contaminants into the water, a process known as “avalanching.” This is why we tell people that if they decide not to replace the cartridge, they are better off disconnecting their filtration system.

Are There Other Factors That Create Exceptions to The 6 Month Rule?

While over 95% of Hydroviv users are best served by a 6 month replacement interval, we do have users that use a longer or shorter changeout interval. For example, a filter used by a large family that drinks a lot of water or has a high amount of particulate matter could require more frequent cartridge replacements. Conversely, an occasionally-used filter can probably be changed out less frequently, though we don’t ever recommend letting any filter be used for over 9 months for hygiene reasons. 

This video shows how easy it is to replace the cartridge in your Hydroviv filter. 

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Things You Should Avoid Pouring Down The Drain:

Analies Dyjak @ Thursday, April 28, 2022 at 11:36 am -0400

Analies Dyjak, M.A. & Christina Liu, B.S. | Science Team   

Whenever we pour something down the drain or flush the toilet, it’s easy to think “out of sight out of mind.” However, the things we put down the drain can impact water quality in a big way. This article highlights exactly what not to pour or flush down the drain.

Where Does The “Stuff” That Goes Down The Drain Go?

All of the water flushed or washed down the drain goes through your city’s sewer system and into the wastewater treatment facility. The water that’s used to flush your toilet, take a shower, or wash your dishes all end up in the exact same spot. The wastewater treatment facility will treat the used water for a variety of pollutants. Once the water goes through the various processes, it’s released into local waterways to be recycled for a number of different purposes (including drinking water!).

Do Wastewater Treatment Plants Remove “Everything”?

It’s easy to assume that a wastewater treatment plant might remove absolutely everything from incoming wastewater. That isn’t entirely the case. Wastewater treatment plants do a really good job at removing larger solids, biological/bacterial contaminants, and sediment. They do not remove many chemicals, pharmaceuticals, hazardous materials, industrial waste, or pesticides. This puts a lot of pressure on drinking water treatment plants to carry a majority of the tap water purification. Some wastewater treatment plants are outdated and aren’t able to remove these types of pollutants, while others are not even required to do so. Click here for an in-depth video on how wastewater treatment plants actually work.

To help ease the burden on wastewater and drinking water treatment plants, here’s a list of things you should never pour or flush down the drain:

Pharmaceuticals: Old or unwanted prescription/over-the-counter medications should never be flushed down the toilet or sink. Water treatment plants are unable to remove most pharmaceuticals, which means that trace amounts end up in our tap water. Small amounts or levels below therapeutic doses are currently not a cause for concern but if people continue to dispose of medications down the drain, these levels of pharmaceuticals may accumulate. For guidance on how to properly dispose of pharmaceuticals, check out the FDA’s best practices for disposal of unused medicines.

Grease: Aside from the obvious reasons why you should never pour grease, oils, or fats down the drain, doing so can actually cause issues at a much larger scale. Whatever grease you pour down the drain congeals with everyone else's, and can form a mass in the sewer system. The mass can block other wastes from passing through, creating a major sewage blockage (like we saw in Detroit, MI). Check your city’s municipal utility company to see if they have a cooking oil collection program. If not, the best recommendation is to collect the used oil in a leakproof jar, seal it up, and throw it away in the trash.

Motor Oil: Never pour used motor oil or other automotive fluids (including antifreeze, solvents and gasoline) down a drain in your house or garage, into a storm drain, onto the soil, into a waterway, or in a manhole on a sidewalk. Used motor oil can contain toxic heavy metals such as zinc, lead, and cadmium that can contaminate drinking water. In fact, one quart of oil poured down a storm drain can contaminate one million gallons of water. One pint of oil can produce a slick of approximately one acre of water. When oil enters a body of water, a film develops on the surface that blocks out sunlight that plants and other organisms need to live. Please note that unlike cooking oil, you also cannot dispose of motor oil in the trash, and many cities will issue stiff fines for dumping toxic waste into landfills. Always bring used motor oil to local used oil collection centers. 

Paint: Whether it’s latex, acrylic, or oil, paints can clog your pipes and potentially leach toxic compounds into the water. If you can, first try to see if the leftover paint can be reused. School drama clubs or community theaters will often be happy to take unused paint! If the paint can’t be reused and must be disposed of, avoid throwing it away. Bring paint to local household hazardous waste collection locations/events. Don’t clean brushes in the sink, but use rinse buckets, and let the paint residue settle overnight from the old rinse water before pouring the water down the sink, leaving the congealed and dried paint at the bottom of the bucket, where it can be peeled or scraped off and thrown away.

Important Takeaways:

Wastewater treatment plants are primarily designed to treat the biological materials in the water, but are NOT equipped to treat the water for chemicals such as pharmaceuticals, cooking oil, household grease, motor oil and other automotive fluids, paint, photographic chemicals and others. A good rule of thumb is, when in doubt, don’t pour it down the sink or into sewer or storm drains. Check with your local authorities for toxic waste disposal locations.

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