Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) are man-made chemicals used worldwide in industry and consumer products.  PFAS, also known as "forever chemicals," are incredibly stable, break down very slowly in the environment, and can dissolve in water.

Athens-Clarke County Public (ACC) Utilities Department (PUD) participated in the Georgia Environmental Protection Department's (EPD) proactive three-year strategic project to assess current PFAS levels in drinking water systems across Georgia.  Recent test results discovered no PFAS in ACC drinking water.

ACC submitted finished drinking water samples for testing on September 30, 2022.  The EPD tested for 18 compounds, with samples below the detection limit for all tests, including those under US Environmental Protection Agency limits: PFOA, PFOS, PFBS, and GenX.

PFAS Test Results

PFAS Name PFAS AcronymResult
Hexafluoroprppylene Oxide HFPO (GenX)Not detected
Perfluorobutane Sulfonic Acid PFBSNot detected
Perfluorooctane Sulfonic AcidPFOSNot detected
Perfluorooctanoic Acid PFOANot detected
Units = parts per trillion, ppt
Reporting limit, ≤ 5 ppt

Parts Per Trillion (ppt)

The EPA reporting limits are measured in parts per trillion (ppt).  A concentration of one part per trillion means that there is one part of that substance for every one trillion parts of either air, water, or soil in which it is contained.  One part per trillion is equivalent to one nanogram per kilogram, 1 ng/L.

How much is one parts per trillion?  One particle in a trillion is an incredibly small concentration, making it difficult to visualize.  One ppt can be represented as a single second out of nearly 32,000 years.  Another view is to imagine 1 ounce in 7.5 billion gallons of water.  For reference, Athens consumes less than 5 billion gallons of water annually.
Mathmematically, ppt looks like this:  one part per trillion = 1 ppt = 0.0000000001 = 1 x 10-12 = 1 nanogram per liter = 1 ng/L

US Environmental Protection Agency Health Advisories

In June 2022, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued updated health advisories for lifetime exposure to perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS), two common types of PFAS.  At the same time, EPA also issued final health advisories for two other PFAS, perfluorobutane sulfonic acid and its potassium salt (PFBS) and hexafluoropropylene oxide (HFPO) dimer acid and its ammonium salt ("GenX chemicals").  The health advisories indicate the level of drinking water contamination below which adverse health effects are not expected.

Georgia Environmental Protection Division

The GA Environmental Protection Division (EPD) is sampling all surface water and groundwater public drinking water systems serving populations of 100,000 or more, with ACC PUD falling into this category.  The EPD monitoring project provides ACC PUD and other water systems with valuable information for selecting the proper treatment methods to protect human health and the environment.  The GA EPD compiles the data into an interactive PFAS Story Map.  The "Current and Future Monitoring" tab provides the analysis results on finished drinking water samples collected from public water systems throughout Georgia. 

If concerns about PFAS in the water remain, installing a home water treatment, such as reverse osmosis or an activated carbon filter certified by the National Sanitation Foundation (NSF), has been found to lower PFA levels in the water.

Learn more about PFAS