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PFAS forever chemicals exceed new EPA limits in hundreds of systems

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Millions of Americans are facing potential health risks due to toxic “forever chemicals” known as PFAS that have recently been found to exceed new limits set by the EPA. USA TODAY’s analysis revealed that 608 drinking water systems in the country have detected PFAS levels at or above the newly established limits, impacting nearly 35 million people. Additionally, 13 million people are receiving water from systems that have detected the chemicals at levels requiring reporting to the EPA, but not surpassing the new limits.

The EPA’s move to require testing for more than two dozen types of PFAS in water systems nationwide last year marked a significant effort to track the proliferation of these harmful chemicals. However, the analysis by USA TODAY exposes a gap in data availability, with over 200 large cities’ systems, including major cities like Los Angeles and Chicago, missing from the EPA dataset. As the EPA continues to update its data quarterly, the number of affected Americans is expected to increase, with estimates suggesting up to 100 million people could be impacted by the new limits on PFAS in drinking water.

While the EPA’s new limits aim to address the growing concerns around PFAS contamination, the financial implications of meeting these standards are substantial. Industry estimates suggest that installing new equipment to comply with the regulations could cost medium-sized cities up to $3 million. With thousands of water systems across the country potentially needing to take action to remove PFAS, the total costs could reach $1.5 billion annually. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law has allocated funds to assist communities dealing with PFAS contamination, but experts warn that ongoing operational and maintenance costs could pose significant challenges for water utilities in the long run.

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