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PFAS in Drinking Water

Perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) chemicals from household and commercial products may find their way into water, soil, and biosolids. As a result, PFAS have been found found in people, fish, and wildlife all over the world.

The PFAS Road Map has helped state officials to identify sources and reduce the use, release, and public exposure of PFAS in Vermont.

Below you can find information about testing for PFAS in public and private drinking water sources. ⬇️

Private Water Supplies

Approximately 40% of Vermonters get their drinking water from a private residential well or spring. If you do not receive a water bill, you are likely on a private well or spring.

In Vermont, there is no requirement to test for PFAS in a private well or spring. The best way to know if you are being exposed to PFAS in your drinking water is to test. Residential well or spring users can obtain water sample bottles by contacting an accredited laboratory on this list.

Given the prevalence of PFAS in many products, including clothing, and the ability of lab equipment to quantify low levels, care must be taken when collecting samples.

The Department of Environmental Conservation continues to investigate sources of PFAS contamination that may be impacting private wells and evaluate which homes need to be sampled in areas where residents are using private drinking water wells that could be impacted from a nearby PFAS source. If you think your well may be impacted by a PFAS source, please contact the Waste Management and Prevention Division at (802) 828-1138.

Unless you obtain your water from a public water system, your water may contain other contaminants such as arsenic, uranium, radon, manganese, nitrate and bacteria that present health risks and that are naturally occurring or originate from nearby land uses. The Vermont Department of Health recommends you test your well or spring on a regular basis to make sure your water is safe to drink. More information regarding recommendations for testing private wells can be found at: Residential Drinking Water Testing.

If you have questions about your water quality sampling results or treatment options please contact the Private Drinking Water Program at the Vermont Department of Health at 802-863-7220 or 800-439-8550. 

Public Drinking Water Systems

Approximately 60% of Vermonters receive drinking water from a public drinking water system. If you receive a water bill or have related expenses as part of association fees or dues, your drinking water likely comes from a public water supply. While many public drinking water systems are run by towns or municipalities, some systems are operated by homeowner associations, manufactured housing communities, and other similar entities with their own source(s) of water.

Act 21 of 2019 established a comprehensive framework to identify PFAS contamination in Vermont and to issue new rules to govern acceptable PFAS levels in public drinking water systems. (See below for more details on the rulemaking process.)

All Non-Transient Non-Community and Community Water Systems are initially required to sample for PFAS Annually. Sampling at Transient Non-Community Water Systems may also be required if contamination is known or suspected to occur near these water systems. Results received from initial monitoring were used to determine future sampling frequencies. All Community Water Systems are required to distribute Consumer Confidence Reports to system users annually. These reports will identify all PFAS sample results taken within the last five years. The link below provides the PFAS sample results for Vermont’s public drinking water systems. If you have questions about the data or having trouble locating data for a specific public drinking water system, please contact the Drinking Water and Groundwater Protection Division at (802) 828-1535.

➡️ PFAS Test Results from Public Drinking Water Systems

Rulemaking: PFAS Contaminant Level

In response to PFAS contamination in Vermont's environment, Act 21 of 2019, an act relating to the regulation of polyfluoroalkyl substances in drinking and surface waters, was passed by the Legislature and signed by Governor Scott in May 2019. This law required that ANR to revise the Water Supply Rules to include a Maximum Contaminant Level for five PFAS compounds. 

The Vermont Water Supply Rule was ultimately revised, through rulemaking, to establish a Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) and routine monitoring frequencies for PFAS at public drinking water systems. The MCL is 20 nanograms per liter (ng/L) and it is for five PFAS in drinking water: PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid), PFOS (perfluorooctane sulfonic acid), PFHxS (perfluorohexane sulfonic acid), PFHpA (perfluoroheptanoic acid), PFNA (perfluorononanoic acid). The sum of these five PFAS cannot exceed 20 ng/L.

If PFAS compounds are found above the MCL, then water systems will be required to protect public health through public notice, over a short-term plan and a long term plan. The purpose of the short-term plan is to protect public health quickly so that a system can have the required Do Not Drink public notice lifted, while a long-term plan is developed. The public notice will direct Public Water Systems to obtain alternative water. 

As part of the rulemaking process, the agency:

Draft Federal PFAS Regulation:

In March of 2023, the US EPA released draft federal regulations including 3 Maximum Contaminant Levels (MCLs) for PFAS compounds in public drinking water systems.  Information, including a link to the draft regulation and summary of the regulation is available on the EPA’s website here:

Vermont has regulated PFAS in public drinking water systems since 2019 so we have a unique perspective. In response to the draft federal regulation, the Agency of Natural Resources combined with the Vermont Department of Health provided perspective, context, and comments on the draft regulation.  Some specific recommendations include:

  • Vermont requested that additional financial support and resources be provided to address impacts to water systems with a focus on small water systems.
  • Vermont stated that EPA should establish a dedicated funding source for O&M expenses for small water systems who are disproportionately impacted by PFAS contamination.
  • Vermont identified laboratory capacity concerns, specifically for EPA to ensure that there is sufficient, reliable laboratory capacity nation-wide to support the proposed Practical Quantification Limit (also referred to as “PQL” which is the lowest levels 75% of labs nation-wide can look at PFAS in samples with 95% confidence) of 4 parts per trillion (ppt).
  • Vermont requested EPA accept existing data on-file by states with state programs if that data meets the current EPA Method 537.1 or 533. The draft regulation would currently not ‘count’ or consider most existing data on-file from Vermont water systems.
  • Vermont stated that EPA must establish an equitable and health-protective sampling framework, accommodating the subtleties of PFAS regulation, and a post-treatment sampling framework due to the shortcomings of the use of the existing Synthetic Organic Chemical (SOC) sampling framework that is proposed to be applied.
  • Vermont requested clarification of health effects as it relates to treatment design, treatment Operation & Maintenance, and messaging to system users. 

Read the Agency of Natural Resources and Department of Health’s complete comments here: State of Vermont Comments on Proposed PFAS Regulation

The EPA is currently reviewing the comments on the draft regulation and is expected to develop a final regulation to be released some time late in the year 2023 or early 2024.  At that point, Vermont will have 3 years to adopt the rules or develop our own more-stringent approach.  Please note that the regulation of PFAS in public drinking water systems in Vermont will not change until after the final regulation is published, and likely not a couple of years after. Upon review of the final regulation, Vermont will then assess the necessary changes in approach to PFAS regulation in public drinking water systems.