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PFAS

Protecting Public Health is Our Top Priority

Orange County Utilities is dedicated to delivering safe and reliable drinking water that meets or exceeds state and federal drinking water regulations.

In 2022, Orange County Utilities’ nationally certified lab performed more than 300,000 analyses while monitoring for more than 150 substances in the drinking water supply, far above the required testing.

Since PFAS, also referred to as forever chemicals, continue to make headlines and are a concern for all communities, we want to help residents understand what it means to them and how they are being addressed by Orange County Utilities.

PFAS EXPLAINED

PFAS, or Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances are a group of man-made chemicals used in a wide range of products due to their water and grease resistance properties. PFAS can be found in products like non-stick cookware, water-resistant clothing, food packaging, and more. They can also enter the air, water, and soil through commercial production processes.

Products that contain PFAS - Shampoo, Candy Wrappers, Fast Food Packaging and Wrappers, Pesticides, Stain Resistant Products, Firefighting Foams, Microwave Popcorn Bags, Eye Makeup, Pizza Boxes, Paints, Sealants, Varnishes, Cleaning Products, Nail Polish, Dental Floss, Non-stick Cookware, Water Resistant Clothing
Source: Water Research Foundation

PFAS are persistent because they last a long time and survive transferring from source to source. You can find out more information about PFAS from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the American Water Works Association (AWWA).


PFAS Cycle - PFOA and PFOS are two of the most well-known and studied PFAS. Though production stopped in 2000, they are still found in our environment. Newer PFAS, like GenX, are now used in their place. We swallow, inhale, or rub PFAS into our skin by using certain products, eating or drinking impacted food and water, and breathing in the dust in our homes. PFAS are slow to break down in the environment and can move far from their original use areas. The manufacturing, use and discarding of these products put PFAS into the environment, where, over time, they may end up in untreated drinking water sources. Waste and Wastewater to Drinking Water, Food, and Air - PFAS can enter the environment as we throw away products that have PFAS, and through our own bodily waste. Resources we use from the environment, such as drinking water, food, and air, are more likely to have higher levels of PFAS over time. PFAS build up in the human body over time. Scientists are still studying the health effects of PFAS. PFAS do not break down naturally and build up in the environment over time.
Source: Water Research Foundation

REGULATING
WATER QUALITY:
WHO’S INVOLVED

Drinking water is regulated at both the federal and state levels. On the federal side, the EPA administers the Safe Drinking Water Act that sets national standards for drinking water quality. States are given the authority to enforce federal standards, and may have their own additional regulations that can be more stringent. In Florida, the agency responsible for enforcing drinking water standards is the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP). This agency works closely with public water systems, providing guidance, conducting inspections, and monitoring compliance to ensure that drinking water is safe for the public.

To ensure safe drinking water standards, every five years the EPA issues a list of unregulated contaminants of concern to be monitored by public water systems. The current Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule (UCMR 5) requires testing for 29 different PFAS contaminants and lithium.

SAFEGUARDING
WATER QUALITY:
ORANGE COUNTY
TAKING ACTION

Ensuring Safe and Reliable Water through UCMR

Orange County Utilities is participating in the EPA’s Fifth Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule (UCMR 5) and will test the drinking water for 29 PFAS compounds at its water supply facilities in 2023 and 2024. This study will use the EPA’s approved analytical methods that can detect PFAS in drinking water.


A Firm Commitment to Complying with the EPA’s Final PFAS Rule

On April 10, 2024, the EPA announced the Final PFAS National Primary Drinking Water Regulation. PFAS can often be found together in water and in varying mixtures. The EPA will regulate five PFAS individually: PFOA, PFOS, PFNA, PFHxS, and HFPO-DA. The EPA will also regulate four PFAS as a mixture: PFHxS, PFNA, HFPO-DA and PFBS. As part of our efforts to continuously improve water quality, we are committed to complying with PFAS regulations using proven water treatment technologies.

Legal Measures to Hold PFAS Producers Accountable

Orange County is participating in a lawsuit against PFAS manufacturers, distributors, and sellers who might have impacted our source water. The purpose of this litigation is to protect residents from the potential costs of removing PFAS from the drinking water. We believe it is important to hold polluters and not the residents of Orange County accountable for any damages.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Are PFAS harmful to health?

Some PFAS have been associated with potential health risks. Studies suggest links to certain health issues, immune system changes, and an increased risk of certain types of cancer, but more research is needed to fully understand these effects.

More information can also be found on the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website.

How can I be exposed to PFAS?

Research by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that most people in the United States have been exposed to some PFAS by:

  • Working in occupations such as firefighting or chemicals manufacturing and processing
  • Drinking water contaminated with PFAS
  • Eating certain foods that may contain PFAS, including fish
  • Swallowing contaminated soil or dust
  • Breathing air containing PFAS
  • Using products made with PFAS or that are packaged in materials containing PFAS
If I get my water from a private well, how can I find out if PFAS are in my water?

Private wells are under the jurisdiction of the Florida Department of Health (FDOH). Please contact your local FDOH representative who can advise on PFAS testing. The Orange County FDOH representative’s information is listed below:

David Overfield
David.Overfield@flhealth.gov
407-723-5233

What type of water treatment technology will Orange County Utilities use to address PFAS in drinking      water?

Orange County Utilities does not generate PFAS, however, if PFAS are found in our water system above EPA’s Maximum Contaminant Levels (MCLs), we will meet the standards for removal. If removal is required, Granulated Activated Carbon (GAC) is the treatment method we plan to use. It is similar to the technology used in many refrigerator water filters. Essentially, PFAS get trapped in the filter and cleaner water flows out the other side. GAC is particularly effective because PFAS are strongly attracted to carbon surfaces. EPA’s website explains this common method for treating drinking water in greater detail.Orange County Utilities does not generate PFAS, however, if PFAS are found in our water system above EPA’s Maximum Contaminant Levels (MCLs), we will meet the standards for removal. If removal is required, Granulated Activated Carbon (GAC) is the treatment method we plan to use. It is similar to the technology used in many refrigerator water filters. Essentially, PFAS get trapped in the filter and cleaner water flows out the other side. GAC is particularly effective because PFAS are strongly attracted to carbon surfaces. EPA’s website explains this common method for treating drinking water in greater detail.

David Overfield
David.Overfield@flhealth.gov
407-723-5233

What can I do to reduce my overall exposure to PFAS?

PFAS can be found in many consumer products. One way to reduce exposure is to think about what products you are buying and using.

  • Buy products from companies committed to removing PFAS from their manufacturing.
  • Be aware. Many companies are working to remove PFAS from their products; however, until the removal is complete, products including nonstick cookware (e.g., Teflon™), stain repellants (e.g., Scotchgard™), and water proofing (e.g., GORE-TEX™) may have PFAS. PFAS are also found in certain types of dental floss, nail polish, facial moisturizers, eye make-up, and more.
  • Avoid non-stick cookware that has PFAS. Consider using stainless steel or cast-iron pots and pans. When the coating on existing non-stick cookware shows signs of wear-and-tear, replace them with stainless steel or cast-iron cookware.
Can I still drink my tap water and use it to cook and bathe?

Yes, Orange County Utilities drinking water is safe. Additionally, the EPA is not recommending bottled water for communities based solely on concentrations of PFAS chemicals in drinking water that exceed the health advisory levels. Per the EPA, studies have shown that only a small amount of PFAS can get into your body through skin. They also highlight that PFAS cannot be removed by heating or boiling water.

More information is available on the EPA's Drinking Water Health Advisories Q&A webpage.

QUESTIONS?

Orange County Utilities is committed to continuing to deliver safe and reliable drinking water that meets or exceeds state and federal drinking water regulations.

Water Division
9150 Curry Ford Road
Orlando, FL 32825

Phone: (407) 254-9850
Email: Water.Division@ocfl.net

All e-mail sent to this address becomes part of Orange County public record. Comments received by our e-mail subsystem can be read by anyone who requests that privilege. In compliance with "Government in the Sunshine" laws, Orange County Government must make available, at request, any and all information not deemed a threat to the security of law enforcement agencies and personnel.