State to Begin Monitoring ‘Forever Chemicals’ in Public Water Supplies

January 4, 2021

The Minnesota Department of Health will sample public water systems for perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) starting in early 2021.

The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) is starting its statewide perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) monitoring project, in which it will sample public water systems for PFAS.

PFAS are a family of man-made chemicals that have been used widely for decades. They have sometimes been referred to as “forever chemicals.” Because of their stability, they do not naturally break down in the environment, and they continue to pose threats if they get into water supplies and agricultural systems that produce food or livestock feed. PFAS have been detected in groundwater and surface waters in Minnesota.

Sampling community water systems

In the first phase of this project, scheduled to start in early 2021, MDH will collect samples from approximately 60 community water systems (CWSs). A CWS provides water to members of the public in their homes. CWSs include municipalities, as well as some manufactured home parks, college campuses, prisons, and long-term care facilities.

MDH has already begun inviting water systems to participate in the study. MDH encourages systems to participate to meet the long-term goal of testing all CWS customers’ drinking water for PFAS. The second phase of this project is scheduled to start later in 2021 and will cover additional CWSs.

This monitoring project is part of a larger effort at MDH to sample all CWSs for PFAS. MDH aims to cover 90% of CWS customers under its PFAS monitoring program by 2025. The goal of this effort is to evaluate whether Minnesotans are exposed to PFAS at levels above health-based guidance values in drinking water and whether actions are needed to reduce exposure to PFAS.

Need for better PFAS information

The League of Minnesota Cities and the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities are jointly working on legislative proposals to provide better and more accurate information to regulators. Information should indicate the sources of these PFAS compounds that are the main contributors to Minnesota water, which will likely vary in different parts of the state.

Information is also needed to determine what processes, products, and industrial uses should be focused on to prevent these chemicals from reaching the water. Legislative activity on PFAS-related issues will be covered in the Cities Bulletin during the 2021 legislative session, which begins on Jan. 4.

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