What are PFAS?
PFAS are a group of highly toxic, man-made chemicals that have been manufactured and used for decades in waterproof, stain-resistant, and non-stick products, as well as firefighting foam.
These toxic ‘forever chemicals’ build up in our bodies over time and never break down in the environment. Even the smallest doses of PFAS can be harmful to human health and are linked to cancer, developmental impacts in children, reproductive and immune system harm, and other diseases. They have also been found to reduce the effectiveness of vaccines.
The EPA and twenty states across the US, including North Carolina and Florida, are working to address this issue through drinking water regulations. However, these regulatory processes could take multiple Years to finalize, subjecting communities to contaminated water until the regulations are final and systems take action.
PFAS in South Carolina
Initial Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) water quality testing in 2020 showed widespread PFAS contamination in almost every water system tested. The range detected in SC drinking water (2.1 – 88.7 parts per trillion total PFAS) exhibits levels considered unsafe by scientists and public health experts.
DHEC’s PFAS strategy includes repeated testing of public water systems and testing of ambient surface waters in South Carolina. This testing is necessary to fully characterize the extent of PFAS contamination in our state but a combination of understaffing and a lack of funding.
Despite an unclear picture of statewide contamination, there are still clearly identified hotspots for PFAS contamination. Private wells near PFAS sludge application sites and industrial textile facilities are showing alarming levels of contamination, and families drinking from those wells are already suffering the effects of these dangerous chemicals. However, without a drinking water standard for PFAS, these families have no course of action, and they are stuck paying out of pocket for a different source of drinking water.
How does S.219 help?
S.219 will address insufficient testing in South Carolina and help families who do not have the luxury of waiting for Federal drinking water standards. The bill will prioritize the use of federal funds for the completion of DHEC’s PFAS Strategy and will make that money available to public water systems and private well owners who are currently being plagued by PFAS contamination. Without S.219, those suffering from PFAS will either be left to foot the bill for clean drinking water or expose their families to unsafe drinking water.