New England lawmakers are urging the Environmental Protection Agency to issue an updated health advisory level for the chemical PFOA.
The suspected carcinogen has been found in water in Pownal and Bennington, as well as in New York and New Hampshire.
In 2009 the EPA set its safety limit at 400 parts per trillion, but new studies on the danger of the chemical has forced the EPA to update its health advisory.
Katie Thomas, an environmental policy advisor for Senator Bernie Sanders, says the EPA has indicated that it might drop its advisory level to 100 parts per trillion.
Vermont set its standard level at 20 parts per trillion.
"We're working with the EPA to find out when the health advisory will be updated more officially," Thomas says. "We want to see whether that standard will be lowered below 100 parts per trillion."
When EPA determines that drinking supplies are contaminated with PFOA over the advisory level, the agency recommends actions to reduce exposure.
In 2014, EPA said people should not consume water that exceeds its provisional health advisory for PFOA.
The agency says short term exposure may cause adverse health effects.
New Hampshire Senator Jeanne Shaheen met with EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy this week to discuss the PFOA contamination in her state. Shaheen says the water contamination deserves an urgent response from the federal agency.
“Communities in New Hampshire must be able to trust their water supply,” Shaheen said in a news release. “Today, I had a productive conversation with Administrator McCarthy and received assurances that she was marshaling federal resources to provide these communities with timely and thoroughly researched information."
EPA is evaluating PFOA as a drinking water contaminant in accordance with the process that was established by the 1996 amendments to the Safe Drinking Water Act.
The Agency included PFOA on the third "Contaminant Candidate List" (CCL) published by the EPA in 2009 and the fourth draft CCL published in 2015.
The CCL is a list of contaminants that are known or anticipated to occur in drinking water that may require regulation. The agency uses the CCL to identify priority contaminants for regulatory decision-making and information collection.
The agency also included PFOA among the contaminants water systems are required to monitor for in accordance with the third Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule (UCMR) published on May 2, 2012.
Following the 2012 rule, the EPA tested 10 municipal water supplies around Vermont, and all of those tests came back negative for PFOA.
The water systems tested following the 2012 rule include Bennington, Barre City, Brattleboro, Burlington, Jay Peak Basin Complex, Lyndonville, Rutland City, Shaftsbury, South Burlington and Winhall Stratton Fire District 1.
EPA spokesman Dave Deegan says the agency could go further than issuing a health advisory.
He says the EPA will consider the occurrence data from UCMR 3, along with the peer reviewed health effects assessment supporting the PFOA Health Advisory, to make a regulatory determination on whether to initiate the process to develop a national primary drinking water regulation.
"EPA is using the best science to develop a lifetime health advisory level for PFOA, which the agency expects to release in spring 2016," Deegan says. "When issued, the lifetime health advisory for PFOA will supersede the provisional health advisory of 400 parts per trillion for PFOA issued in 2009."
The EPA has been working closely with the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation on the latest round of water tests in Pownal and Bennington.