Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS)

The best way to keep drinking water safe is to protect the source. Pinellas County Utilities is committed to continuously protect drinking water for everyone who lives in and visits our county.

What are PFAS?

Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) are a family of chemicals used since the 1940s to manufacture stain-resistant, water-resistant and non-stick products. PFAS are widely used in common consumer products as coatings, like food packaging, outdoor clothing, carpets, leather goods, personal care products, cosmetics and more. Certain types of firefighting foams—historically used by the U.S. military, local fire departments, and airports to fight oil and gasoline fires—may also contain PFAS.

A wheel chart of products that contain PFAS.

These substances stay in the environment for a long time because they do not break down easily. As a result, PFAS are widely detected in soil, water, air and food. People can be exposed to PFAS when they use products that contain the compounds, eat PFAS-contaminated food or drink PFAS-contaminated water. When ingested, some PFAS can build up in the body. Over time, they may accumulate to levels associated with negative health outcomes.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is focused on a small number of these compounds that may have health effects at very low concentrations, two of which are perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS).

Chart depicting the cycles of PFAS.

PFAS and Public Health

Chemicals like PFAS do not originate in the Tampa Bay Water treated drinking water supplies provided to Pinellas County Utility’s customers.  The manufacturing and use of products with PFAS puts PFAS into the environment, where, over time, may end up in drinking water supplies. 

Pinellas County Utilities delivers clean, quality tap water that meets or exceeds all federal and state standards for safe drinking water. Tampa Bay Water treatment plants are not located near industrial or manufacturing facilities known to produce PFAS materials.

What is the EPA doing?

The EPA issued interim drinking water lifetime Health Advisory levels for select PFAS in June 2022 at lower levels than previously issued in 2016. PFOA and PFOS cannot yet be reliably measured at those levels using current scientific instrumentation. The interim Health Advisories will remain in place until the EPA develops formal regulation.

In March 2023, the EPA issued proposed regulatory limits for six PFAS compounds in drinking water. The proposed limits address levels of PFOA and PFOS as individual contaminants, while the other four compounds (PFNA, PFHxS, PFBS, and Gen X) included as a PFAS mixture.

Timeline of EPA drinking water regulations for PFAS.

What is Pinellas County doing?

During the last EPA evaluation of Pinellas County Utilities drinking water (2015), PFAS were not detected.

Pinellas County Utilities and Tampa Bay Water will participate in the next EPA evaluation of unregulated contaminants, which is scheduled for 2023 – 2025. This survey will include 29 PFAS compounds and use new analytical testing methods that were not available during the previous study.

Pinellas County Utilities strongly supports holding polluters accountable for cleaning up PFAS contamination. Working with Tampa Bay Water, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and stakeholders, Pinellas County Utilities will stay current with scientific and technological updates to keep consumers safe.

What can you do?

  1. Learn more about the issue
  2. Be aware of the many sources of PFAS exposure.
  3. If you’re concerned about exposure, you can check household product ingredient labels for compounds with “perfluoro” or “polyfluoro” in the name.
  4. Reach out to manufacturers of non-stick, water-resistant, and stain-resistant products for information about their contents