Some 200 water agencies and districts who manage some 612 groundwater wells are being required to test their wells for smaller amounts of nonstick chemicals suspected of being carcinogenic. The action comes after the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) an- nounced in August, they were lowering the allowable levels set for the chemicals.

Wthe SWRCB toughened regulation of two chemicals found in drinking water that make up polytetrafluoroethylene(the chemical basis for Teflon)—perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS). The agency’s Division of Drinking Water (DDW) monitors the testing process. The new standards lower the current notification level from 14 parts per trillion (ppt) to 5.1 ppt for PFOA and from 13 ppt to 6.5 ppt for PFOS.

One ppt is a measurement for something in the water or air and would be equal to four grains of sugar in an Olympic-sized swimming pool.

But, according to an article in the December 2014 edition of Critical Reviews in Toxicology, after reviewing 18 different studies of these chemicals:

“Perfluorooctanoate (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonate (PFOS) are ubiquitous synthetic chemicals with no known effect on human cancer development.”

So, it looks like the state is again exercising its adherence to the “precautionary principle”—the principle that the introduction of a new product or process whose ultimate effects are in dispute or unknown should be resisted in making up new regulations, much as it has done in regulating heavyduty diesel equipment for particulate matter.

Or, perhaps, it is the California urge to oneup the federal government in regulatory glory. In May 2016, the United States Environmental Protection Agency, under the Obama administration, issued a “lifetime health advisory for PFOS and PFOA for drink- ing water,” with 70 ppt standard.

The new SWRCB rule is 92 percent tougher than the national EPA standard.

Regulatory Effect Is Real

Water, as we have all learned through our recent drought years, is precious in California. In June, the Santa Clarita Valley Water Agency shut down one well after tests for the chemicals exceeded the state “response level,” but not the federal level.

“These new guidelines would apply to all SCV wells tested moving forward,” Kathie Martin, spokeswoman for the water agency, announced in a news release about the shutdown.

“Under these levels, an additional three wells would fall within notification levels, added to the eight identified during the first round of sampling in May,” Martin said. SVC operates 44 wells, which supply roughly half of the water for its customers.