Hastings bridge

The city of Hastings is creating a game plan for filtering out the per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) that reside in its water supply with stricter state and federal regulations coming. The City’s drinking water is safe to drink under current guidelines, but the changes on the horizon will demand serious attention.

As expected, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced draft Maximum Contaminant Levels (MCLs) designed to drastically reduce American’s exposure to PFAS on Tuesday, March 14. The EPA proposes limiting two types of PFAS (PFOA and PFOS to four parts per trillion, which is the lowest level that can be reliably measured at this time.

The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) and Minnesota Pollution Control Agency is expected to release their own updated guidance for PFAS later in 2023. In a joint statement, the agencies issued a response to the EPA’s proposed guidelines, assuring Minnesota residents that no immediate action is required. 

“While the draft MCLs will have no immediate impact on public water systems in the state, and no immediate action is required, MDH will continue to test for PFAS in systems across the state and provide guidance to systems when their results indicate a potential health concern based on current health-based values,” MDH representatives said.

Several PFAS chemicals, including both PFOA and PFOS, are present in all six Hastings City wells, but they do not exceed current MDH guidance values. Based on MDH’s Health Risk Index, where a score of 1.0 or higher elicits a drinking water advisory, Hastings measures range from 0.16 to 0.84. 

It is anticipated that MDH’s new guidance values, which will be far more stringent, will trigger a water advisory for Hastings. To stay ahead of the situation, the City has been conducting studies to familiarize themselves with PFAS and hone in on potential contamination sources.

A recent review from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention outlines a host of health effects associated with PFAS exposure, including cancer, liver damage, decreased fertility, and increased risk of asthma and thyroid disease.

The CDC identifies PFAS as man-made chemicals that have been used in industry and consumer products worldwide since the 1940s. They have been used to make nonstick cookware, water-repellent clothing, stain resistant fabrics and carpets, some cosmetics, some firefighting foams and products that resist grease, water and oil.

The City has hired engineers to assist in developing a project scope and cost estimate to filter out the harmful contaminants. Currently, the cost estimate is $61.7 million for three water treatment plants and associated raw water mains. 

Having a cost estimate in place is crucial to advertising the project for potential funding avenues. The City will submit their project to the state’s Drinking Water Revolving Fund Project Priority List this spring and continues to position the project for other potential funding opportunities.

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