In 2020, the Town of Frisco took part in Colorado’s 2020 Sampling Project by sampling drinking water at three source locations where treated water enters the piping network in town. The 2020 Colorado Sampling Project was in direct response to an emerging public health challenge from a group of chemicals scientifically called per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances or “PFAS.” These chemicals are found in certain classes of firefighting foam as well as in many consumer products, and may cause various health impacts. To help communities learn if their residents are at risk, the Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment (CDPHE) offered free testing to public drinking water systems serving communities. The State of Colorado is one of 12 states which has decided to go beyond the guidelines set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) by establishing their own regulations at the state level, testing chemicals at their source, and setting limits on various contaminants before they threaten public health.
- The first Frisco testing location did not show any PFAS at all.
- The second location did not show any PFOA or PFOS, but had a total PFAS level of 1.3ppt of other PFAS substances tested.
- The third location had a combined PFOA and PFOS level of 17.2ppt, well in compliance of the CDPHE and EPA health advisory limits, however had a total concentration of 75.4ppt. This included 58.2ppt PFAS compounds that are currently not under the EPA health advisory.
What the Results Mean
In May 2016, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued an updated health advisory that established a maximum contaminant level (MCL) of 70 parts per trillion(ppt) for two chemical compounds in the Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) family, PFOA, and PFOS. PFAS were and still are widely used in various industrial settings, and the full extent of their long-term environmental and health implications is still being studied. The EPA’s health advisory specifically applies to PFOA and PFOS compounds, two compounds out of the 18 PFAS compounds tested for in drinking water. Frisco’s water did not test above the maximum contaminant level for the two chemical compounds, PFOA, and PFOS, which the EPA has guidance for at this time.
Even though Frisco’s PFOA and PFOS levels were well below the maximum set by the advisory, the Town of Frisco will be partnering with the EPA and the CDPHE to further evaluate PFAS levels and increase frequency of testing to see if they change over time. The Town of Frisco will also test PFAS levels in the blended water at various locations in the water distribution system to determine actual concentration levels at the tap, which are likely to be lower.
The CDPHE is evaluating all results from the 2020 Sampling Project and considering areas where PFAS releases may have originated, and will determine if private wells or additional public water systems that were not originally sampled could be at risk for water with levels above the EPA health advisory. During the 2020 State Sampling Project, 400 out of the 895 eligible Colorado water systems participated, including Frisco.
The Colorado State legislature passed several laws regarding these chemicals in 2020. There are now restrictions related to the use of firefighting foam that contains these chemicals. There is also a fee structure to fund further sampling and provide support to impacted communities. The fees will also provide money to start a takeback and disposal program for materials with these chemicals. As new studies become available, the understanding of the health and environmental impacts of these chemicals in humans will continue to grow and may influence the EPAs and CDPHE’s response protocol, and the Town of Frisco will closely follow this evolving knowledge about PFAS and monitor and treat Frisco’s water to continue to provide safe and delicious water for Frisco residents and visitors.
Below is a list of resources to learn more about PFAS and their use, impacts, prevalence, monitoring, and legislation.