August 23, 2023 — Dangerous levels of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) have been detected in water used by millions of Americans. A map now allows individuals to visually determine if their community water systems are delivering water with elevated PFAS levels.
PFAS, often dubbed “forever chemicals,” are a group of synthetic chemicals that resist degradation in the environment, persisting for many years or even centuries. These compounds are prevalent in a myriad of consumer goods, encompassing non-stick cookware, waterproof attire, and food containers. Moreover, they find use in various industrial contexts, like firefighting foam and metal plating. Due to their enduring nature, PFAS pose potential health and environmental threats.
The Need for Regulation.
Currently, there are no set national standards for PFAS concentrations in water. However, as of March this year, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) revealed its intention to set a national drinking water standard for these substances. This groundbreaking proposal aims to introduce legally binding limits for six PFAS compounds known to be present in drinking water.
Mapping PFAS-affected Water Systems.
Researchers at SimpleLab, backed by EPIC and receiving technical guidance from the Internet of Water, have crafted a map that illustrates the scope of community water systems across the US. The map encompasses nearly 98% of the US population. Using a method termed TEMM, the team has categorized these water systems into three tiers based on available data sources. Tier 1 uses data from states, Tier 2 aligns water systems with city boundaries, and Tier 3 derives boundaries from other supplementary data. To provide a perspective on population coverage: Tier 1 accounts for 49.3%, Tier 2 for 35.13%, and Tier 3 for 12.9%. SimpleLab, Inc. has generously made the technical method and related code accessible on Github under an MIT License. This transparency encourages users to adapt and make use of the code and data, but they should remain cognizant of any data inaccuracies, particularly in specific tiers.