(COLUMBUS, Ohio) — Ohio Governor Mike DeWine announced today that he has directed the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Ohio Department of Health (ODH) to analyze the prevalence of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in Ohio’s drinking water.
PFAS are manmade chemicals that are used in products such as carpeting, upholstery, cookware, food packaging, and firefighting foam. PFAS contamination from manufacturing operations and firefighting activities can migrate through soil, posing potential contamination threats to surface and ground waters.
Although the health impacts of PFAS are not fully known, some studies show that two specific chemicals within the PFAS family, PFOA and PFOS, could negatively impact health. There are currently no drinking water standards for PFAS compounds, but the U.S. EPA established a health advisory level of 70 parts per trillion for PFOA and PFOS in drinking water.
“Right now, we just don’t know if these chemicals have a widespread presence in Ohio’s water supply or not, and I’ve asked the directors of both the Ohio EPA and Ohio Department of Health to develop a plan to find out,” said Governor DeWine. “This is important for both the protection of our natural resources and for public health, which is why we must more fully evaluate the prevalence of PFAS in our water.”
Governor DeWine has asked the Ohio EPA and ODH to develop an action plan by December 1, 2019, to test public and private water systems that are near known sources of PFAS, such as firefighting training sites and manufacturing facilities. As part of the action plan, the agencies will also develop a strategy to work with communities and private well owners on appropriate response measures if high levels of PFAS are found.
Education and outreach materials to help Ohioans better understand PFAS compounds, associated health risks, and practical measures to reduce exposure will also be developed.
“Implementing a statewide action plan is important because it provides a pathway for ODH and Ohio EPA to work together and in partnership with key stakeholders to more fully evaluate the risks of PFAS and assist our communities in addressing these risks,” said Ohio EPA Director Laurie Stevenson.
“We don’t yet fully understand what health problems may be caused by PFAS or at what levels in the body,” said ODH Director Amy Acton, MD, MPH. “Different chemicals in the PFAS family may cause different health problems, and some studies have shown a relationship between PFAS chemicals in the body and a higher chance of certain diseases.”
On September 18, Governor DeWine, along with 14 governors, sent a letter to both the U.S. Senate and House Armed Services Committees calling for more comprehensive national legislation on PFAS and action to address PFAS contamination in and around military bases.
“It’s imperative that this issue not be left solely to the states to address,” said Governor DeWine. “As conveyed in our letter, while states are being responsive in evaluating PFAS risks, we are also in need of resources, guidance, and a commitment from the federal government to effectively address contamination from these persistent substances.”
To ensure that Ohio’s plan adapts as the science and national regulatory framework on PFAS unfolds, Governor DeWine has directed the Ohio EPA and ODH to continuously monitor emerging areas of national research related to adequate chemical substitutes for PFAS, soil remediation, and technologies to treat PFAS.