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DEC Takes Action on PFAS Contamination: Seeks Public Comment on Proposed Cleanup Levels for Fire-fighting Chemicals in Drinking Water

For immediate release — October 4, 2018

Contact: Sally Schlichting, 907-465-5076

Juneau, AK — The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) is taking action to regulate a class of fluorinated chemicals known as “PFAS,” which have been detected in drinking water in some communities in Alaska. DEC is proposing new cleanup levels for six PFAS in soil and groundwater, and is working with stakeholders on a statewide action plan for dealing with these chemicals and contamination from them.

Although the information on per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) is limited, a growing body of research indicates the compounds have various levels of toxicity to human health and the environment.  Because of their chemical structure, PFAS chemicals can migrate to groundwater and do not break down easily. This means they can persist in the environment and the human body for years.

“PFAS in drinking water are an evolving national public health concern; the information regarding safe exposure levels and how to respond is changing as we learn more about these chemicals,” stated Kristin Ryan, Director of the department’s Division of Spill Prevention and Response. “Alaska is working with partners across the state and the nation to stay abreast of the latest research on this group of chemicals and to work to protect public water supplies.”

DEC is proposing new, more protective cleanup levels for six PFAS. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recommends that people do not drink water with concentrations of two of these chemicals, PFOS (perfluorooctane sulfonate) plus PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid), above 0.07 parts per billion.  DEC’s proposed regulations for Alaska apply this level of 0.07 parts per billion to the sum of any or all of the following five PFAS:

  • PFOS
  • PFOA
  • PFNA (perfluorononanoic acid)
  • PFHxS (perfluorohexane sulfonic acid)
  • PFHpA (perfluoroheptanoic acid)

In addition, the regulations would establish a separate cleanup level of 400 parts per billion for a sixth compound, PFBS (perfluorobutane sulfonic acid), which research shows is less toxic.

The deadline for providing comments is 5 p.m. Monday, November 5, 2018.

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