Tackling PFAS: Communicating Effectively

Strict new federal limits on PFAS in drinking water have drawn rapidly increasing attention to the dangers of “forever chemicals,” and your customers are probably asking questions.

As your water utility develops strategies for testing, monitoring and planning for removing PFAS that might be found from your system, it’s essential to keep your public informed about your actions and what they can expect.

The new limits include public communication requirements that go into effect in 2027 and 2029. But starting a communications effort now will demonstrate transparency and help build trust within your community, particularly among residents who are especially worried about water quality or feel vulnerable.

Steps You Can Take Now

  • Establish a communications plan, working with your staff and elected officials to determine who you want to reach, what to tell them, how often to communicate and which methods to use.
  • Help your customers understand PFAS, the new drinking water limits and how this affects them. Explain the health risks of prolonged PFAS exposure to convey the urgency without being alarming.
  • Reassure your public by letting them know what actions you’re taking to keep their water safe and comply with the requirements — whether you’re already testing or just starting to develop your action plan.
  • Inform the public about your test results, along with details about your response to those results.
  • Use a range of tools to reach the public, depending on your available resources. Tactics can include a web page, social media posts, town halls or open houses, postcards/fliers, columns in local news publications or interviews with news outlets.
  • Remember that you’ll need to communicate multiple times across several different channels to have the broadest reach.
  • Provide a contact person or location where the public can learn more about PFAS generally and your actions regarding the new standards.

PFAS Communications Resources

The EPA has created a toolkit to assist utilities with PFAS communications.

Other resources are available from the American Water Works Association and the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials.

Communications That Will Be Required Later

2027: Public water systems must complete initial monitoring and start informing the public about PFAS levels in their drinking water while working to reduce them below Maximum Contaminant Levels of 4.0 parts per trillion (ppt) for PFOA and PFOS, and 10.0 parts per trillion for PFNA, HFPO-DA, commonly known as GenX and PFHxS.

2029: Water systems with PFAS levels that still exceed one or more Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) must take action to reduce them and notify the public of the violation.

Examples of What Systems Are Doing

Many systems already testing and sampling have been communicating with the public through web pages and other mechanisms. These publicly available examples show varied approaches for reference only. (Freese and Nichols was not involved in developing these pages.):

Arlington, Texas
Boca Raton, Florida
Boulder, Colorado
Broken Arrow, Oklahoma
Cary, North Carolina
Columbia, South Carolina
Greensboro, North Carolina
Savannah, Georgia
Tyler, Texas

How Freese and Nichols Can Help

With our team’s expertise and experience in environmental science and water treatment, we can assist you with all aspects of PFAS regulatory compliance. Our experts can provide initial evaluations and planning and design treatment solutions that purify drinking water impacted by PFAS compounds.

Freese and Nichols can help you address PFAS each step of the way:

  • Plant evaluations and sampling plans
  • PFAS sampling and data analysis
  • Planning, cost estimating and developing CIP programs
  • Pilot studies to optimize treatment efficiency
  • PFAS treatment system planning, design and construction
  • Waste disposal plans
  • PFAS program management
  • Permitting
  • Funding assistance
To Learn More:

Viraj deSilva
David Jackson

New Federal PFAS Limits: What Water Systems Should Do Now

New federal limits on PFAS levels in drinking water mean local utilities must take action to test, monitor and plan for changes to their systems. Learn more about this rule and how Freese and Nichols can help your water system comply.

Learn More

Most Significant Issues and Concerns Related to PFAS that a Public Works Director Should Know and Plan For

Originally presented at 2021 WEFTEC Conference by Viraj deSilva. Viraj deSilva, PhD, PE, BCEE was invited to speak at the […]

Learn More

Journal AWWA Shares Our PFAS Expertise

Our team explains what to know about treating PFAS for potable reuse water and what to expect in the changing regulatory landscape.

Learn More

EPA Proposes New PFAS Regulations for Drinking Water

New PFAS limits could significantly impact vulnerable public water systems. Learn more about the proposal and how Freese and Nichols can help you.

Learn More

PFAS Team Wins AWWA Best Paper Award

Our treatment team continues to stay on top of regulatory developments and emerging practices for removing dangerous substances from water systems.

Learn More

David Jackson

Deadlines to Act on PFAS Settlements: What Water Utilities Need to Know

Public water systems that want to opt out of proposed PFAS litigation settlements face December deadlines. Learn more and see how Freese and Nichols can help you with PFAS management.

Learn More

PFAS Technology Study Promises to Benefit Water Utilities at Military Base and Beyond

Freese and Nichols is working with Columbus Water Works on a multi-phase approach to treat PFAS in the drinking water at Fort Moore, Georgia.

Learn More

Freese and Nichols Adds Viraj deSilva, Internationally Experienced Treatment Process Leader

Viraj deSilva has more than three decades of experience with water and wastewater solutions, from biosolids management to PFAS treatment.

Learn More