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City of Philadelphia

PFAS Management

The subject of national attention due to concerns about potential health impacts, PFAS is a family of substances that have been widely used for decades in industry and consumer goods.

As part of our steadfast commitment to providing safe, reliable drinking water, we want to tell you what we do to safeguard our supply.

PFAS: What Are They?

  • Human-made perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances—called PFAS—have been used in industrial applications and a wide range of consumer products including cookware, fabrics, paper products and firefighting foams.
  •  Substances in the PFAS family are not found in water alone. These compounds have been used globally for decades and do not break down easily or quickly. PFAS are widespread around the world, even found in remote environments such as the Arctic.
  • Initial research suggests some PFAS substances have been tentatively linked to health problems, including cancer.

Customer and Safety Concerns

  • Fortunately, here in Philadelphia, our drinking water sources are our rivers, which are constantly replenished by fresh rainwater. That’s important because PFAS is more of a concern in groundwater sources.
  • In our region, there have been media reports of PFAS being detected in groundwater near some military bases that used certain firefighting foams. There are still many other commercial and industrial sources that need to be evaluated.
  • While there are no federal or state drinking water regulations for PFAS in Pennsylvania, the EPA set a health advisory level as a guideline in 2016.

Philadelphia Water Department Actions

  • Treated drinking water samples have been taken from all three of PWD’s drinking water treatment plants as part of the EPA’s national sampling program. All samples were below the EPA health advisory level issued in 2016.
  • PWD is proactively testing for PFAS in source water and has not detected concentrations above EPA’s advisory level.
  • We are also collaborating with neighboring water utilities to better understand the influence of regional groundwater contamination and stay on top of the latest scientific information.
  • PWD continues to follow the state and national discussion and latest scientific discoveries to ensure the integrity of our water supply.