PFAS in Nevada
What is PFAS?
Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a class of emerging contaminants made up of several thousand compounds. Emerging contaminants are pollutants that affect the quality of drinking water, but are not yet regulated by the EPA. PFASs were developed in the 1930s, came into widespread use in the 1950s, and EPA first became aware of the health effects associated with PFAS in 1998. Due to their use in consumer and commercial applications such as firefighting foams, stain repellants for clothing and carpets, and other sources, these chemicals are being detected in drinking water, groundwater, surface water, landfills, and air.
What are the health effects associated with PFAS exposure?
As reported by the American Cancer Society, exposure to PFAS may result in an increased risk of various diseases, including testicular, kidney, thyroid, prostate, bladder, and ovarian cancers. Additional studies indicate that exposure to elevated concentrations of specific PFAS - perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS) - during pregnancy and breastfeeding may result in low birth rate, accelerated puberty, skeletal variations, liver damage, diminished antibody production and immunity, and thyroid damage and cholesterol changes.
Are PFAS regulated in Nevada or nationally?
PFAS in drinking water is not regulated at this time. On March 14, 2023, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the proposed National Primary Drinking Water Regulation (NPDWR) for six PFASs including:
- Perfluorononanoic acid (PFNA)
- Hexafluoropropylene oxide dimer acid (HFPO-DA, commonly known as GenX Chemicals)
- Perfluorohexane sulfonic acid (PFHxS),
- Perfluorobutane sulfonic acid (PFBS)
The proposed PFAS regulation does not require any actions until it is finalized, which will probably be late 2023 or early 2024.
EPA’s Proposed Action for the PFAS NPDWR:
|PFNA||1.0 (unitless) Hazard Index***|
|PFHxS||1.0 (unitless) Hazard Index|
|PFBS||1.0 (unitless) Hazard Index|
|HFPO-DA (GenX)||1.0 (unitless) Hazard Index|
*MCL = Maximum Contaminant Level - The highest level of a contaminant that is allowed in drinking water.
**ppt = parts per trillion
***Hazard Index is a sum of fractions of the four PFAS compounds in the proposed regulation that will not have an MCL. Each fraction compares the level of each PFAS measured in the water to the highest level determined not to have a risk of health effects. More information on the proposed EPA regulation, including an explanation of a Hazard Index, is available from EPA's webpage.
Aside from drinking water, Nevada does regulate and restrict the use of PFAS. Since January 1, 2022, the use or release of class B firefighting foams containing PFAS for testing or training has been prohibited. Nevada will follow EPA's drinking water regulation regarding PFAS (when finalized) to ensure the continued safety of Nevadan's drinking water.
What are the potential sources of exposure to PFAS in Nevada?
NDEP has not identified any industries in Nevada that have manufactured PFAS.
Historical manufacturing could have used and/or released PFAS through different processes, and the use of PFAS in industrial applications could have ranged from no use to significant use. Certain coatings and fluids manufacturing may have included the use of PFAS. Many metal plating operations have historically used PFAS, or still use PFAS for worker safety (e.g., hexavalent chromium plating).
Is there PFAS contamination in Nevada?
Until August of 2023, there were no detections of PFAS in Nevada's drinking water from public utilities or in the limited number of private wells that have been tested. Research did find PFAS in surface waters and sediments in both the Las Vegas and Reno areas. A paper published in 2021 documented PFAS in six surface water and sediment samples collected along the Las Vegas Wash and in Lake Mead, as well as eight sites along the Truckee River, Lake Tahoe, and Pyramid Lake. That research paper can be downloaded here. Research in 2023 found PFAS to be "ubiquitous throughout the surface waters of the Great Basin." That research paper can be downloaded here. In 2023, research conducted by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) showed no detection of PFAS in three private wells and ten public water system samples from Nevada. However, testing nationwide indicated that PFAS was likely present in 45% of U.S. drinking water samples. That paper is available here.
The Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) mandates that every five years, EPA must require monitoring for priority contaminants that may be present in drinking water but are not yet subject to EPA drinking water regulations. Under the Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule (UCMR), EPA collects nationally-representative drinking water data to support EPA’s future regulatory actions and, as appropriate, develops national primary drinking water regulations. There are two UCMRs that require analysis for PFASs nationwide (UCMR 3 and UCMR 5). Additionally, NDEP has executed a PFAS sampling and analysis contract to look for PFAS in Nevada.
- UCMR 3: UCMR 3 required groundwater monitoring for 30 contaminants, 5 of which were PFAS. All PFAS results from PWS in Nevada were below the minimum reporting limits (70 ppt). The entire UCMR 3 data set can be found here. Click here to download the Nevada PFAS data.
- UCMR 5: UCMR 5, which began in 2023 and will continue through 2026, looks at 29 PFAS compounds and lithium. Preliminary results, representing about 7% of the expected data, were released August 17th, 2023. Monitoring is required at all PWS serving more than 10,000 people (i.e., large systems); all PWSs serving 3,300 to 10,000 people, and 800 representative PWS serving fewer than 3,300 people. The entire UCMR 5 data set can be found here. You can download the Nevada data set here. Here is a tabular representation of the Nevada data to date:
- NDEP PFAS Sampling and Analysis contract: In the spring of 2023, the Nevada Board of Examiners approved an NDEP contract for PFAS sampling and analysis from approximately 200 drinking water, wastewater, and surface water body sites. The Quality Assurance Project Plan has been given conditional approval by EPA Region 9, and sampling is expected to begin in mid-October of 2023. Results from these analyses will be posted to this page upon receipt.
Will I be notified if PFAS is found in my water?
Yes, EPA Regional offices will be notified of the UCMR 5 preliminary results monthly. EPA Regions will then report preliminary PFAS results above the EPA Health Advisory to the State, which will then notify the public water systems. Public water systems are required to notify customers about the availability of all UCMR results no later than 12 months after they are known. Community water systems are also required to report UCMR results in their annual Consumer Confidence Reports when unregulated contaminants are found.
How do I get my water tested for PFAS?
If you have municipal ("city") water, contact your public water system and ask if your water was tested for PFAS as part of UCMR 3 or UCMR 5. If not, or if you get your water from a private well, use the list below to contact a Nevada-certified laboratory to make arrangements to have your water tested at your expense. There are also PFAS home test kits available online, but NDEP cannot verify the accuracy of these tests.
|ALS Environmental – Kelso||EPA 533, 537, 537.1||(360) 577-7222||WA|
|Anatek Labs, Inc. – ID||EPA 533, 537, 537.1||(208) 883-2839||ID|
|BSK Associates||EPA 533, 537.1||(559) 497-2888||CA|
|EMSL Analytical Inc.-NJ||EPA 537, 537.1||(800) 220-3675||NJ|
|Energy Laboratories, Inc. - MT||EPA 537.1||(406) 252-6325||MT|
|Eurofins Eaton Analytical, LLC||EPA 533, 537, 537.1||(626) 386-1100||CA|
|Eurofins Eaton Analytical, LLC-IN||EPA 533, 537.1||(574) 233-4777||IN|
|Eurofins Sacramento||EPA 537, 537.1||(916) 373-5600||CA|
|GEL Laboratories, LLC||EPA 533, 537.1||(843) 556-8171||SC|
|Gulf Coast Analytical Laboratories dba Pace Gulf Coast||EPA 537.1||(225) 214-7077||LA|
|Pace Analytical Services, LLC - Minneapolis MN||EPA 537.1||(612) 607-1700||MN|
|SGS North America Inc. - Orlando||EPA 533, 537.1||(407) 425-6700||FL|
|Weck Laboratories, Inc.||EPA 533, 537.1||(626) 336-2139||CA|
How do you remove PFAS from drinking water?
The chemical characteristics that made PFAS useful are also why they persist in the environment and can accumulate in plants, animals, and people. This means traditional drinking water treatment technologies are not able to remove them. Newer technologies have been found to remove PFAS from drinking water, especially PFOA and PFOS, which are the most studied of these chemicals. Those technologies include activated carbon adsorption, ion exchange resins, and high-pressure membranes. These technologies can be used in drinking water treatment facilities, in water systems in hospitals or individual buildings, or even in homes at the point-of-entry, where water enters the home, or the point-of-use, such as in a kitchen sink or a shower.
- Granular Activated Carbon (GAC): Activated carbon treatment is the most studied treatment for PFAS removal. Activated carbon is commonly used to adsorb natural organic compounds, taste and odor compounds, and synthetic organic chemicals in drinking water treatment systems. GAC has been shown to effectively remove PFAS from drinking water when it is used in a flow-through filter mode after particulates have already been removed. GAC works well on PFAS like PFOA and PFOS that have better adsorption characteristics, but PFAS like perfluorobutanesulfonic acid (PFBS) and perfluorobutyrate (PFBA) do not adsorb as well.
- Ion Exchange (IX): Another treatment option is using anion exchange resins (AERs). This treatment technique, which is one category of IX, has been shown to be effective for many PFAS; however, it is typically more expensive than GAC. One promising method of AER employment is using them a single time, then incinerating the resin. There is no need for resin regeneration, so there is no contaminant waste stream to handle, treat, or dispose of. Like GAC, AERs can remove PFAS if used under optimal conditions.
- High-pressure Membranes: High-pressure membranes, such as nanofiltration or reverse osmosis, have been extremely effective at removing PFAS. Research shows that these types of membranes are typically more than 90 percent effective at removing a wide range of PFAS. Manufacturers are presently trying to determine if household point-of-use reverse osmosis systems are effective in removing PFAS to below-regulated levels.
For a more in-depth discussion of these treatment technologies, visit EPA's Reducing PFAS in Drinking Water with Treatment Technologies webpage. The Interstate Technology Regulatory Council (ITRC) webpage offers a comprehensive overview of PFAS treatment technologies, including a training module video. Access ITRC's webpage here.
The NSF, an independent certification organization, provides a searchable database of water treatment units and water filters. Consumers can search the database for products certified to reduce specified contaminants to an NSF/ANSI Standard. You can access the NSF webpage here.
Is there funding available to address PFAS in drinking water?
There is money available from the State Revolving Fund, Emerging Contaminants/Small or Disadvantaged Communities Grant, and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to address PFAS removal from drinking water, depending on the specifics of the water system, such as population size served. The State Revolving Fund provides loans for infrastructure construction to publicly and privately owned drinking water systems in Nevada. For more information, visit the Office of Financial Assistance webpage. Additionally, the Emerging Contaminants in Small or Disadvantaged Communities grant program will provide states and territories with grants to public water systems in small or disadvantaged communities to address emerging contaminants, including PFAS. Grants will be awarded non‐competitively to states and territories. Finally, the USDA Water & Waste Disposal Loan & Grant program provides funding for clean and reliable drinking water systems, sanitary sewage disposal, sanitary solid waste disposal, and stormwater drainage to households and businesses in eligible rural areas, which would include PFAS treatment.
Bureau of Safe Drinking Water
Nevada Division of Environmental Protection
375 E. Warm Springs Rd., Suite 200
Las Vegas, NV 89119
Bureau of Safe Drinking Water
901 S. Stewart Street, Suite 4001
Carson City, NV 89701