What is PFAS?
PFAS, or Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances, is a class of chemicals manufactured and used in a variety of industries around the globe, including in the United States since the 1940s. PFAS compounds have been used in carpets; clothing; furniture fabric; paper packaging for food and other materials that are resistant to water, grease, or stains; and fire-fighting foams. While consumer products are a large source of exposure to these chemicals for most people, drinking water can be an additional source in smaller percentages where the chemicals have seeped into water sources and contaminated water supplies. There is evidence that exposure to PFAS can lead to adverse human health effects and accumulate over time in humans, animals, and the environment.
In June 2022, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued new health advisories for PFAS in drinking water. The new interim health advisory level changes affect two PFAS compounds in drinking water: PFOA and PFOS. The interim health advisory for PFOA is now 0.004 parts per trillion (ppt) and 0.02 ppt for PFOS; previously, the health advisory level was 70 ppt for both PFOA and PFOS combined together. Current technology is unable to analyze concentrations at these low levels. To put these numbers in perspective, 0.004 ppt is the equivalent of one drop of water in a vessel the size of 5,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools, or one drop in 3.3 billion gallons of water. Another way to look at 0.004 ppt is one second in 8 million years. In addition to the interim changes, the EPA issued final health advisories for two other compounds: GenX chemicals at 10 ppt and PFBS at 2,000 ppt.
How does PFAS affect the City of Cedar Rapids?
In February 2022, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (Iowa DNR) sampled Cedar Rapids’ drinking water as part of the State’s PFAS Action Plan. Results show that none of the compounds with health advisory levels were detected in Cedar Rapids' finished potable water. One well that was tested did have a detection of 4.7 ppt of PFOS, which was below the previous health advisory, but exceeds the new interim advisory level. This well also contained a detection of 2.1 ppt of PFBS, which remains below the new final health advisory of 2,000 ppt. The well has since been taken out of service. Our water treatment facilities blend the output of several wells running at all times, so the effects of one specific well are always diluted.
Water quality specialists at the Cedar Rapids Water Division continue to follow the emerging science on PFAS compounds and regularly test finished potable water for various contaminants. Cedar Rapids’ water remains in compliance with 100% of the Iowa DNR’s water quality expectations. According to the current data, analytical technology, and scientific evidence, there is no indication that Cedar Rapids Water customers need to take any special actions at this time. For more information, visit the EPA's PFAS webpage at EPA.gov/PFAS, and visit the Iowa DNR's PFAS webpage, which includes a dashboard showing all Iowa DNR public water supply testing results.
The Cedar Rapids Water Division is committed to protecting the quality of our drinking water. We continuously monitor the quality of our source water and maintain the highest standards for our water treatment process. View our annual Consumer Confidence Reports here.
If you have questions about the quality of your water, please contact the Water Division: