The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has issued the first-ever national, legally enforceable drinking water standard to protect communities from exposure to harmful per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances, also known as “forever chemicals.”

The new standards represent the most significant step to protect public health under the EPA’s PFAS Strategic Roadmap. The EPA says the final rule will reduce PFAS exposure for approximately 100 million people, prevent thousands of deaths, and avoid tens of thousands of serious illnesses. Exposure to PFAS has been linked to deadly cancers, impacts to the liver and heart, and immune and developmental damage to infants and children.

The EPA’s announcement today complements the Biden administration’s government-wide action plan to combat PFAS pollution.

The EPA is also making unprecedented funding available to help ensure that all people have clean and safe water, announcing nearly $1 billion in newly available funding through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to help states and territories implement PFAS testing and treatment at public water systems and to help owners of private wells address PFAS contamination. The funding is part of a $9 billion investment through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to help communities with drinking water that is impacted by PFAS and other emerging contaminants. An additional $12 billion is available through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law for general drinking water improvements, including addressing emerging contaminants like PFAS.

New limits
The EPA is establishing legally enforceable levels for several PFAS known to occur individually and as mixtures in drinking water. This rule sets limits for five individual PFAS: PFOA, PFOS, PFNA, PFHxS, and HFPO-DA (also known as “GenX Chemicals”).

The rule also sets a limit for mixtures of any two or more of four PFAS: PFNA, PFHxS, PFBS, and HFPO-DA. The enforceable level for mixtures will use a Hazard Index. (See the EPA’s Hazard Index Fact Sheet for details.)

The following are the Maximum Contaminant Levels (enforceable levels) for each compound:
• PFOA: 4.0 parts per trillion (ppt)
• PFOS: 4.0 ppt
• PFHxS: 10 ppt
• PFNA: 10 ppt
• HFPO-DA: 10 ppt
• Mixtures containing two or more of PFHxS, PFNA, HFPO-DA and PFBS: 1 Hazard Index

The EPA estimates that between about 6% and 10% of the 66,000 public drinking water systems subject to the new rule may have to take action to reduce PFAS to meet the new standards.

All public water systems have three years to complete their initial monitoring for these chemicals, and they must inform the public of the level of PFAS measured in their drinking water. Where PFAS is found at levels that exceed the new Maximum Contaminant Levels, systems must implement solutions to reduce PFAS in their drinking water within five years.

The EPA says the new limits are achievable using a range of available technologies and approaches, including granular activated carbon, reverse osmosis, and ion exchange systems.

The federal agency says it will be working closely with state co-regulators in supporting water systems and local officials to implement the new rule. The EPA hosted a series of webinars in April to provide information to the public, communities, and water utilities about the final PFAS drinking water regulation.

For more information, visit the EPA’s PFAS drinking water regulation webpage. The EPA has also published a toolkit of communications resources to help drinking water systems and community leaders educate the public about PFAS, where they come from, their health risks, how to reduce exposure, and the new EPA rule.

The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection recommends that public water systems review their PFAS monitoring results and contact their regional PFAS representative if levels exceed the new thresholds to schedule technical assistance meetings and discuss next steps. The regional representatives are: Western, Timothy Strzepa,; Central, Robert Botswick,; Northeast, Amy LaPusata,; Southeast, William Schwartz,

For additional assistance, contact the MassDEP’s Drinking Water Program at with the subject “PFAS,” or call 617-292-5570.

MassDEP also has a PFAS web page and has issued a notice to all public water systems regarding the new EPA regulation.

Written by Josie Ahlberg, MMA Legislative Analyst, and John Ouellette, MMA Deputy Communications Director