The Illinois EPA filed a new set of proposed administrative rules that would become the first groundwater standards to regulate PFAS in the state.
PFAS, a chemical used since the 1940s, is the toxic chemical that was used in a failed attempt to put out the fire raging inside of the Sugar Camp Coal Plant in Franklin County.
These proposed rules would update exposure factors and toxicity data for various chemicals, and introduce groundwater quality standards for five Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) chemicals in the state, according to an agency news release.
Environmental activists and experts say these chemicals may have devastating impacts on local water sources for years to come following the Sugar Camp coal plant incident. They say PFAS is particularly toxic and detrimental to the health of humans and wildlife.
The proposed rule includes new groundwater quality standards for five PFAS chemicals and creates groundwater quality standards for nine new chemicals, three new atrazine metabolites and procedures for selecting toxicity values consistent with current federal guidance among other updates, the EPA release said.
“Groundwater in Illinois is important as drinking water for people and livestock, irrigation, industrial inputs, to sustain wetlands and other habitats, and to maintain flow and water quality in lakes, rivers and streams,” the EPA said. “Groundwater quality standards help the Illinois EPA to protect current and future uses of groundwater by providing a measure of groundwater’s suitability for Groundwater Quality Standards use and to set limits when remediation is necessary. Monitoring groundwater quality to detect changes in composition can provide an early warning when contaminants threaten water supplies and provide a measure for cleanup effectiveness when required.”
Sonya Lunder, senior toxic advisor with the Sierra Club, said PFAS are unusually toxic chemicals that can impact many parts of the body if exposed.
“They impact our thyroid system, our immune system, internal organs like liver and kidneys, they’re linked to immune related digestive problems like ulcerative colitis. If you’re exposed during pregnancy, there are long term impacts on infant growth and development, as well as the immune system,” Lunder said.
Children exposed to the toxins in utero can have long-term suppression of their immune systems. She said while she has been studying toxic environmental chemicals for a long time, there is nothing quite like PFAS that she has come across, Lunder said.
Lunder said PFAS does not break down and will contaminate water sources, once exposed to it, forever.
The ability to detect and identify PFAS in groundwater, will be essential in cleaning up legacy sites and places like Sugar Camp, Lunder said.
“One challenge with regulating groundwater is (that) it isn’t prevention-oriented, right? It’s still legal to use these chemicals for firefighting. And then really the only way to clean up groundwater is to excavate the soil or to pump and treat groundwater,” Lunder said. “So it is a little bit interesting that Illinois is starting with groundwater instead of surface water and drinking water, which has been where a lot of other states have started to focus. But at the same time, it does create some regulatory movement to identify and potentially then clean up contaminated places.”
Lunder said in the future, it is important that more states commit to regulating PFAS.
Be the first to know
Get local news delivered to your inbox!
via The Southern
December 24, 2021 at 03:23PM