PFOA and PFOS Response Levels Lowered for California Drinking Water

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New Thresholds Impact Wider Swath of Public Water Suppliers

Yesterday the California State Water Resources Control Board lowered its Response Levels for PFAS in drinking water to 10 parts per trillion for PFOA and 40 parts per trillion for PFOS.

Response Levels are thresholds at which the Board recommends water systems remove a water source from use or provide treatment if feasible. A new statute, Assembly Bill 756, requires that California water systems report any detected levels of PFAS in their annual consumer confidence reports and report detections above Response Levels to their customers if a water source remains in service. The Board also today posted guidance on complying with AB 756.

The prior Response Levels were 70 parts per trillion for PFOA and PFOS combined. The new, lower Response Levels will impact more water sources and will be more challenging to meet.

In addition to lowering Response Levels, California state agencies have been moving to address PFAS on other fronts:

  • In August 2019, the Water Board lowered Notification Levels for PFAS in drinking water to 5.1 parts per trillion for PFOA and 6.5 parts per trillion for PFOS – the lowest in the nation. Water systems that test and find PFAS that exceed the Notification Levels are required to report these to their governing boards and the Water Board, and are urged to share this information with their customers.
  • The Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment is developing Public Health Goals for PFOA and PFOS. These Public Health Goals are used as the health basis for developing regulatory requirements, or Maximum Contaminant Level, a process the Water Board began in August 2019. The Board has said that it may add requirements for other PFAS substances in the future.


PFOA and PFOS are the most common synthetic organic chemicals that are part of a group of elements referred to as per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS. These substances are known for their nonstick, waterproof, heat- and stain-resistant properties. They are used widely in consumer and industrial products, such as fabrics, carpets, firefighting foams, food packaging, manufacturing nonstick cookware and chrome plating.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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