Water and chemicals from firefighting foam and other sources

On June 15, 2022, the Environmental Protection Agency announced an update to health advisories for four PFAS chemicals by lowering the level of acceptable amounts present in drinking water (PFOA, PFOS, PFBS, and GenX). These chemicals are known to have negative impacts on human health and the environment. This page has information for water consumers as well as water providers to learn more about these chemicals. 

How do these chemicals enter drinking water?

Person filling water glass at kitchen sink.

There are many ways for these chemicals to enter drinking water. In Colorado, we are especially concerned about toxic firefighting foams containing these chemicals. If firefighting foam is left on the ground after putting out a fire, this may allow PFAS chemicals to sink through the soil into groundwater or run off into rivers and streams.

What should I do to make sure my drinking water is safe?

If you receive a water bill, then you are connected to a public drinking water system. If your water bill is included in rent or association dues, contact the manager to determine which system provides your water. If you do not receive a bill, you could be served by a private well.

If you are served by a public water system

Some water systems participated in a sampling project in 2020 to test for these chemicals and you can view the results. We recommend following up with your water system because they may have changed their treatment methods since this project took place.

We will continue to work with public water systems that may be impacted by the updated health advisories. We will help them assess their PFAS data, and then inform customers and evaluate options if PFAS levels are higher than the health advisory. 

 

 

If you have a private well

If you use well water for drinking, cooking food like soup or rice, or gardening, we recommend testing your well water for PFAS chemicals. EPA has a list of labs that can test for these chemicals. We recommend testing for as many PFAS contaminants as the lab offers. Please note the number of labs that can test for these chemicals changes, so this list may not be the most current.

EPA list of certified labs.

Tell the lab you want to test your drinking water for PFAS. A test usually costs between $300 and $500.

For help interpreting lab results, please contact the department's toxicology hotline:

CDPHE_Toxcall@state.co.us|303-692-2606

 

What if my water has PFAS levels over the health advisory?

The EPA’s 2022 health advisory for PFAS in drinking water includes levels for PFOA at 0.004 parts per trillion (ppt), PFOS at 0.02 ppt, PFBS at 2,000 ppt, and GenX at 10 ppt.

You can reduce exposure by using at-home water filters or using an alternate source of water for drinking and cooking. While many at-home water filters exist, they haven’t all been certified to remove PFAS. Look for manufacturers that have demonstrated the water filter can remove PFAS to non-detectable levels (see in-home treatment information sheet). Using bottled water is an individual choice, but CDPHE cannot verify that all bottled water is below PFAS health advisories. Reverse osmosis is a treatment that will remove PFAS. Choosing a brand that has this language on the bottle is important in selecting bottled water. Before choosing bottled water, consider the negative environmental impacts.

Other water sources include bottled water or water treated under the sink by a reverse osmosis system (see in-home treatment information sheet). If you or your family are concerned about your health, contact your health care provider and talk with them about PFAS (see ATSDR guidance document). 

Learn about health effects on our health web page

Additional information for drinking water providers

Water sample collection from test tubes.
UCMR

To date, there is no national regulatory standard for PFAS chemicals that public water systems need to test for. Under the Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule (UCMR), the EPA periodically requires selected public water systems across the country to gather data on certain contaminants to help determine if they should be regulated in the future. The 2012 list included six PFAS chemical compounds (PFOA, PFOS, PFNA, PFHxS, PFHpA, and PFBS), which water systems monitored from 2013-2015. As a result of this monitoring, some public water systems across the United States, including in Colorado, detected PFAS chemicals.