Mapping out America’s “forever chemicals” in community water systems

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August 23, 2023 — Dangerous levels of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) have been detected in water used by millions of AmericansOpens in a new tab.. 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 WaterOpens in a new tab., 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.

The map can be viewed hereOpens in a new tab..


Since 1995, Deborah has owned and operated LegalTech LLC with a focus on water rights. Before moving to Arizona in 1986, she worked as a quality control analyst for Honeywell and in commercial real estate, both in Texas. She learned about Arizona's water rights from the late and great attorney Michael Brophy of Ryley, Carlock & Applewhite. Her side interests are writing (and reading), Wordpress programming and much more.

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Laura Bove
Laura Bove
August 24, 2023 11:59 am
I am very glad to see that some regulation and accountability will be established for the National Drinking Water Standard. It’s hard to ignore the diseases and problems that we both know and suspect that these PFAS’s are responsible for. I look forward to more on this.

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