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Delaware halts work on PFAS regulations after EPA proposes stricter limits on 'forever chemicals'

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Delaware puts finalization of its maximum contaminant levels for PFAS on hold as the Biden Administration proposes a new federal standard.

Delaware was proposing a PFAS drinking water standard of a combined level of 17 parts per trillion. The new federal proposal is much stricter - 4 parts per trillion -- and it would be enforceable.

State officials say they plan to pause work on their regulations in light of the new EPA proposal. And while HB 8’s sponsor State Rep. Debra Heffernan (D-Brandywine Hundred) isn’t opposing that move, she says Delaware should finish its work to regulate PFAS.

“It’s important for Delaware to have a process and a value in place if that happens, if the government overturns wanting to look at regulation of PFAS,” Heffernan said.

Stephan Mann with the state’s Office of Drinking Water says Delaware needs to revisit its proposed levels either way.

“We will most likely, based on the science, if the science is showing it’s like lead, there’s no safe level of lead, and they’re pretty much saying the same thing with PFAS now," Mann says. "So I can’t see us say ‘well we’ll just continue with our numbers.’ I don’t think it would be prudent, I don’t think the public would appreciate it.”

DPH Environmental Health Specialist James Hanes adds there are other things for the state to consider about how to enforce the strict new rules proposed by the EPA.

“There is only a limited number of labs within the country that samples could be sent to for these two types of approved methods," Hanes says. "And then another thing that also needs to be considered as we’re looking with lower numbers and possibly more systems countrywide that may fall into a point where they have to implement additional treatment is supply chain shortages.”

Hanes adds during the pandemic, there were long wait times to get granular activated carbon, one of the most common treatment methods.

Rachel Sawicki is Delaware Public Media's New Castle County Reporter. They are non-binary and use they/them pronouns.