How Forever Chemicals Enter Water Systems

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, commonly known as PFAS, are a large group of human-made chemicals found in industrial and consumer products. These chemicals are referred to as ‘forever chemicals’ due to their extremely stable chemical structure which does not easily break down in the environment or the human body.

When PFAS enter water systems they become a major concern for the environment and public health. They can enter water systems in a variety of ways:

  1. Factories that manufacture or use PFAS can release these chemicals into nearby bodies of water through wastewater discharge or stormwater runoff.
  2. Firefighting Foam with PFAS can cause runoff and introduce PFAS into groundwater and surface water.
  3. Products with PFAS that end up in landfills can leach chemicals into the ground as they break down. This then can infiltrate groundwater and/or runoff into water systems.
  4. Wastewater treatment plants are not typically equipped to remove PFAS, so these chemicals can pass through the treatment process and be released into rivers, lakes, and oceans. Sludge from these plants, often used as fertilizer, can also spread PFAS into the environment.

The composition and widespread use of PFAS have led to extensive environmental contamination. These chemicals are commonly found in groundwater, surface water, and drinking water supplies around the world and can build up over time, leading to long-term exposure risks for our communities.

Research into the health effects of PFAS exposure has uncovered a troubling array of potential impacts. Although the full extent of these effects is still being studied, it is essential to support policies and practices that protect both human health and the environment from these pollutants. That is why the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the final National Primary Drinking Water Regulation (NPDWR) for six PFAS for which Public Water Systems must comply.

There is now a total of $9 Billion to address emerging contaminants like PFAS in drinking water. This funding is available through Grant Programs. For more information on PFAS Regulation, visit

Commonwealth Engineers, Inc. can help your utility comply with state/federal PFAS standards. For more information, contact Theresa Criss-Hartwig, Director of Business Development.