PFAS Resources

ADEQ is monitoring scientific, regulatory and legal developments related to PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) and participating in related discussions with federal, state and local agency partners. Referred to as emerging contaminants, PFAS exposure is linked to potential adverse human health outcomes and is the subject of increasing regulation and litigation. To keep the public and other stakeholders informed, ADEQ will update this PFAS Resources webpage with new information as it becomes available.

THE SCIENCE

What are PFAS?

PFAS are a group of man-made chemicals with fire-retardant properties that have been manufactured and used by a variety of industries since 1940. PFAS have been used commercially in the United States to make products like stain and water resistant carpet and textiles, food packaging, firefighting foam, as well as in other industrial processes. The most studied PFAS compounds in the environment are PFOA/PFOS (perfluorooctanoic acid and perfluorooctane sulfonate). Since 2000, most industries have been phasing out the use of PFAS | EPA PFAS Webpage > and ATSDR PFAS Webpage >

Why are PFAS a concern?

PFAS can migrate into the soil, water and air during manufacture and use of products containing PFAS. Once in the environment, most PFAS (including PFOA/PFOS) do not break down, so they remain in the environment and can impact groundwater and drinking water sources.

Because of widespread use and their persistence, PFAS are found at low levels in the environment, in a variety of food products, and consequently in the blood of people and animals worldwide. Some PFAS can build up in people and animals with repeated exposure over time | EPA PFAS Technical Fact Sheet > 

How can people be exposed to PFAS?

The most significant PFAS human exposure pathway is drinking impacted municipal or well water in communities near industrial facilities where PFAS were produced or used to manufacture other products, facilities used for the disposal of PFAS containing water, or near oil refineries, airfields, or locations where PFAS-containing products were used for firefighting.

Research generally suggests that human exposure to PFAS from consumer products is low when compared to exposures to impacted drinking water | ATSDR PFAS Exposure Webpage >

Are there health effects from PFAS?

Scientists are still learning about the potential health effects from PFAS exposure. Some studies have shown that certain PFAS may increase the risk of cancer, affect the immune system and impact children’s development | ATSDR PFAS Health Effects Webpage >

How can I reduce my risk of exposure?

PFAS primarily accumulate in a person’s body through drinking water with the compounds or ingestion of food that may have come in contact with the compounds. PFAS are not likely to get into the body from skin contact. Using the water to shower, bathe, wash dishes or clothes, and irrigate landscaping (non-gardening) is not expected to increase exposure | ATSDR PFAS Exposure Webpage >  

REGULATORY LANDSCAPE

Regulation of PFAS is increasing at federal and state levels in the United States. New regulations are focusing on lowering the limits for acceptable levels of PFAS in groundwater and soil, as well as requiring remediation projects to address PFAS contamination.

What is the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) doing?

EPA has been addressing emerging PFAS issues through its authority under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) and the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act.

In 2016, EPA developed a Health Advisory Level (HAL) for PFOA/PFOS in drinking water. A HAL provides technical information on a particular contaminant or group of contaminants, but is not an enforceable standard | EPA PFOA & PFOS Fact Sheet >

In February 2019, EPA published a PFAS Action Plan that outlines the tools EPA is developing to address PFAS in drinking water, identify and clean up PFAS contamination, expand monitoring of PFAS in manufacturing, increase PFAS scientific research and exercise enforcement tools. EPA issued an Update to its PFAS Action Plan in February 2020 and is working toward a regulatory determination for certain PFAS under SDWA | EPA’s PFAS Action Plan >

What is Arizona doing?

Industry & Public Water System Screening

In Arizona, there are no known manufacturers of PFAS chemicals. Research also indicates PFAS compounds were not used on large-scale industrial applications and tend to be localized near areas of potential frequent use.

In 2018, ADEQ developed and conducted a PFAS screening program for public water systems with wells near areas of potential frequent PFAS use, which included industrial and manufacturing facilities, firefighting training facilities, airports and military sites. Screening program results showed more than 94 percent of the public water systems were either non-detect for PFAS tested or below EPA’s HAL | View Report > 

Public water systems with PFAS test results higher than EPA’s HAL are voluntarily working with ADEQ to reduce exposure to customers and ADEQ is conducting expanded sampling and testing of these systems and initial screening for an additional 27 systems.

Protecting Tucson’s Drinking Water Supply

In Arizona, PFAS has already impacted and continues to threaten Tucson’s drinking water supply. Tucson Water has removed four drinking water production wells from service due to PFAS found at levels higher than EPA’s HAL in the regional groundwater aquifer near Davis Monthan Air Force Base. Additional drinking water production wells in Tucson Water’s central wellfield are at risk from PFAS. The central wellfield has the potential to provide water to over 600,000 people and is the sole alternate drinking water supply to the Central Arizona Project for central Tucson.

To address the PFAS threat to Tucson’s drinking water supply, ADEQ has dedicated funds from its limited Water Quality Assurance Revolving Fund to delineate and capture PFAS-contaminated groundwater from impacting additional drinking water production wells and is working with Tucson Water and the Air Force Civil Engineering Center. In addition, ADEQ notified private well owners in the area, whose wells are not regulated by ADEQ, about the potential for PFAS impacts. At the owners’ requests, ADEQ tested 13 privately-owned wells for PFAS and for three of these wells that showed PFAS levels higher than the EPA HAL, ADEQ worked with the Air National Guard to provide the residents with an alternate source of healthy drinking water.

Stakeholder Advice, Education & Outreach

ADEQ has advised fire departments and local emergency planning committees (LEPCs) about potential adverse impacts to public health and the environment associated with the use of certain aqueous fire fighting foam (AFFF) and prepared and shared this online information resource | AFFF Resources for Fire Departments & LEPCs >