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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

  • 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 of 70 ng/L for PFOA and PFOS combined as a guideline in 2016.

Philadelphia Water Department Actions

  • In 2019, PWD began voluntarily and proactively testing for PFAS in the city's rivers and creeks to better understand the occurrence of these compounds in the city's water supply. This document details the methodology and results of the nearly year-long study. PWD has not detected concentrations at or above the EPA's health advisory level of 70 ppt (parts per trillion) for PFOA and PFOS combined. Furthermore, results from independent studies led by EPA and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection indicate non-detectable PFAS concentrations in Philadelphia's drinking water.
Location ID Description Number of Samples Average (ppt) Min (ppt) Max (ppt)
DELA Delaware River at Baxter intake 11 8.1 5.3 12.2
SCHU1 Schuylkill River at Queen Lane intake 11 12.1 8.6 14.5
SCHU2 Schuylkill River at Belmont intake 11 9.7 6.8 16.2
PENN Pennypack Creek at Pine Rd. 11 28.7 19.7 51.0
POQU Poquessing Creek at Holy Family University11 29.9 15.5 41.0
WISS Wissahickon Creek at Ft. Washington 11 20.0 16.8 24.0
Combined PFOS and PFOA Results for Each Site by Sample Date (ppt)
  • 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 of 70 ng/L for PFOA and PFOS combined. In addition, all samples were below the reporting limit (the smallest concentration that can be reported by a laboratory) for every PFAS compound during testing in 2013 and 2014:
    PFAS Compound Reporting Level (ng/L) Result
    PFOA 20 Not detected
    PFOS 40 Not detected
    PFNA 20 Not detected
    PFHxS 30 Not detected
    PFBS 90 Not detected
    PFHpA 10 Not detected
    For more information concerning EPA's sampling program and PWD's results:
  • 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.