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PFAS

Some products that contain PFAS

You may have been hearing about PFAS in the news and have questions. PFAS, an abbreviation for perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, is a common term for a group of human-made chemicals found in everyday products. Thousands of these chemicals are used to manufacture products sold globally and have been around since the 1940s.

These products were originally created to make our lives easier, as they are resistant to water, grease and stains. They are also used to fight fires, primarily at airfields. Researchers, however, have found that what seemed like beneficial uses in items such as carpet, clothing, cookware, food wrappers and furniture, may have health effects associated with exposure to some PFAS.

Industrial, firefighting foam and consumer products are the most common sources of PFAS and are not produced through the drinking water and wastewater process. Controlling PFAS at the source is the best way to keep it out of the environment.

Are PFAS regulated?  

National drinking water quality standards are set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and administered in our state by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE). Under the Safe Drinking Water Act, the EPA issues national health-based standards for drinking water to protect against both naturally occurring and man-made contaminants that may be found in drinking water.

To date, PFAS compounds (a group of thousands of per and polyfluoroalkyl substances) are not regulated. Recently, the EPA released new recommendations, known as health advisories, on two compounds, GenX and PFBS, and lower health advisories for PFOA and PFOS. The EPA is developing a proposed regulation for these two compounds and is evaluating additional actions to address groups of PFAS. Aurora Water is preparing for these future regulations.

What is a health advisory? 

A health advisory provides information on contaminants that can cause negative human health effects. Health advisories are non-enforceable and non-regulatory.

The health advisory levels were calculated to offer a margin of protection for all people, including sensitive populations and ages, against adverse health effects and take into account other potential sources of exposure beyond drinking water (for example, food, air, consumer products, etc.). Because these chemicals have been used in an array of consumer products, most people have been exposed to them and have them in their system. 

Why aren't PFAS listed in the 2022 Water Quality Report?

The 2022 Water Quality Report reflects data collected in 2021 for regulated contaminants, or substances, in the water. To date, PFAS compounds are not regulated.

Prior to June 15, 2022, the EPA had a health advisory limit for two PFAS compounds (PFOA and PFOS) at 70 parts per trillion. Aurora’s drinking water had tested well below that limit for PFOA and PFOS.

How are PFAS measured?

Technological advances allow us to detect concentrations in the parts-per-trillion (ppt) range. The health advisory limits, however, are below what can be currently detected. The scientific understanding and regulatory response to these compounds is uncertain but rapidly evolving. This includes potential public health implications. Aurora Water is closely monitoring the new EPA drinking water health advisories for PFAS chemicals and will be working with the state for further guidance. Aurora Water will always use state-of-the art technology to monitor and safeguard your drinking water.  

Voluntary sampling and results

In 2020, Aurora Water participated in CDPHE’s PFAS voluntary sampling program.

•This program was designed to help water providers across Colorado and the communities they serve determine if PFAS are present in their drinking water.

• Prior to June 15, 2022, only PFOA and PFOS had advisory limits set at 70 parts per trillion (ppt). At the time of sampling, we were below these limits.

• As of June 15, 2022, the EPA released much lower health advisories for two PFAS compounds PFOA and PFOS and issued health advisories for two new compounds – GenX and PFBS.

Sampling data
Aurora Water is conducting more testing in 2022 and 2023 to better understand the source and extent of the problem in drinking water. To further protect our residents, Aurora Water carefully manages water sources used for our drinking water supplies. We regularly examine our treatment system and adjust these processes as part of our mission of continual improvement.

Aurora Water's treatment process

Aurora Water strives to provide clean, safe, great-tasting drinking water to its customers. Aurora’s water comes primarily from high-quality surface water sources originating from high in the mountains.

The city also recaptures river water from the South Platte through the Prairie Waters System. Water is captured downstream through riverbank filtration where it is pulled through a multi-barrier process. The water is then treated at the Binney Water Purification Facility, using granular activated carbon (GAC), which is among the most commonly recommended treatment technologies for removing PFAS. Binney is one of the few U.S facilities built to treat emerging contaminants.

As always, public health and the quality of your drinking water is Aurora Water’s top priority. Aurora’s water continues to meet and exceed all state and federal drinking water standards.

What is Aurora Water doing about PFAS?

Aurora Water is committed to protecting our residents and our resources. Staff have been engaged in numerous discussions at Federal, Regional and State levels (including regulators and legislators) stressing the importance of appropriately regulating, managing and remediating PFAS substances. The multibarrier process used in our treatment system means we have flexibility in mitigating new substances.

These communications have included the importance of holding those parties who introduced the PFAS into the environment responsible for remediation and clean-up and the importance of prohibiting additional use of PFAS compounds in the manufacture of goods.

This year, Colorado Governor Jared Polis signed into law the most comprehensive state bill restricting the sale of PFAS in consumer products, as well as fluids used in the extraction of oil and gas products, as early as 2024. Eliminating PFAS at the source is the best way to keep it out of the environment. Staff will continue to engage in these discussions.

Aurora Water supports a growing body of peer-reviewed scientific research on PFAS. As a leader in the water industry, we are engaged in stakeholder and other local, state and national opportunities to develop solutions. Aurora Water will continue to closely monitor the EPA’s guidelines on PFAS to inform our next steps.
 

How can you help protect water quality?

We encourage residents to avoid PFAS when purchasing consumer goods and new household products. This will not only protect your health but also prevent the compounds from further entering our environment, which is among the reasons for how PFAS originally entered our water system. For a list of PFAS-free consumer goods, visit PFAS Central.  

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