SWBNO Addresses Local and National Concerns about PFAS in Drinking Water

It is vitally important to our team at the Sewerage and Water Board of New Orleans (SWBNO) that we work to keep our customers and neighbors as well informed as possible about the water they use every day. With that in mind, we noticed rising concerns, both nationally and locally, about how polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) could impact America’s water distribution systems. We share those concerns and want to provide you with what we know about PFAS as the national discussion around them unfolds.

What is PFAS?

PFAS, or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, are persistent synthetic compounds used in a variety of industrial and consumer products. They exist, for example, in nonstick cookware, firefighting foam, paints, pesticides – even fast-food packaging and shampoo.

Potential Impacts of PFAS

Much is unknown about how much PFAS are present or their full impacts on the environment and our health. Studies show these substances have made their way into waterways through common use in the industrial, manufacturing and agriculture sectors across the country for more than 80 years. That is why we are working with our state and federal partners to determine how to best understand the extent of the challenge because, currently, PFAS’ presence in water is unregulated.

What We’re Doing to Keep Your Drinking Water Safe

Our testing for PFAS under the Environmental Protection Agency’s former process to evaluate their prevalence under the Safe Drinking Water Act, which took place between 2013 and 2015, found no presence of the half dozen tracked substances in New Orleans’ drinking water in either of our two water distribution systems.

While those results are encouraging, we must continue to be vigilant and learn more about detecting and, if necessary, responding to the presence of PFAS. A joint study by the U.S. Geological Survey and the EPA took samples from 25 drinking water systems between 2010 and 2012, including New Orleans’ East Bank system, and found detectable traces of PFAS in all of them.

We support the EPA discussing new regulatory options for PFAS. The clean water industry is a partner in this effort, and it is imperative that we are clear about the potential benefits – as well as the potential increase in costs to our customers – associated with adding another layer of treatment to our drinking systems.

In the end, our mission at SWBNO to keep New Orleans safe and healthy remains unwavering. Our drinking water is clean, as it has been for generations. But we want to adapt positively as our understanding of our collective impact on the environment becomes clearer.

For additional information on the national discussion of PFAS currently underway, you can explore these resources:

https://www.awwa.org/Resources-Tools/Resource-Topics/PFAS

https://www.epa.gov/pfas/basic-information-pfas

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