What are PFAS?

PFAS Circle GraphicPFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) are a group of manufactured chemicals that have been used in industry and consumer products since the 1940s because of their useful properties. There are thousands of different PFAS, some of which have been more widely used and studied than others.

Modern-day use of PFAS is ubiquitous. It is found in fast-food packaging, non-stick pans, waterproofing products, clothing, makeup and in numerous other products that people use every day.

Learn More at: EPA - PFAS Information Page

 Why Are We Hearing About PFAS Now?

With the improvement of testing technology in recent years, and because of its widespread use, PFAS in trace amounts is being found virtually everywhere—water, air, soil, and in animals around the world.

 Are PFAS Harmful?

Exposure to high levels of PFAS may lead to adverse health, and studies are ongoing to determine if low-level exposure over time has any impact on health.

See Also: EPA - Our Current Understanding of the Human Health and Environmental Risks of PFAS

Does PFAS Exist in our Community?

TMWA recently became aware of one sample, presented in a UNR graduate student presentation at the Nevada Water Environment Association conference in March of 2023; the sample was collected in 2021 from Swan Lake and indicated a high level of PFAS concentration. The sample is from a non-regulatory data set. In general, when making decisions about water quality, we want to see several samples. Future data collections will be processed by a Nevada Division of Environmental Protection (NDEP) certified lab.

In April 2023, the City of Reno, Washoe County and the Truckee Meadows Water Authority initiated a larger sampling effort, collecting wastewater, groundwater, Swan Lake Water and soil samples. So far, sampling results from Reno Stead Water Reclamation Facility have only shown trace amounts. When the full set of lab processing is complete, the results will be made public.

Validated testing for PFAS is done at extremely low levels, in the parts per trillion. Broader tests are also being conducted at targeted areas across the region to help officials better define the issue locally and keep residents informed.

Is PFAS Found in the Municipal Drinking Water?

Consistent with EPA guidance, TMWA previously tested for PFAS in 2013 and at the minimum reporting level required, there were no detections.

Swan Lake is not a source of drinking water for our community. All TMWA’s surface water is held in Truckee River reservoirs, upstream from the Reno/Sparks metropolitan area. Additionally, TMWA has no indication that Swan Lake water has infiltrated into TMWA’s groundwater supply.

As part of prior EPA testing, TMWA has tested for PFAS and at the level tested there were no detections. TMWA is currently sampling at a lower detection level, consistent with the draft proposed EPA PFAS rule. Those results will be available later in the year.

How do I know if PFAS is in My Well Water?

PFAS is odorless and tasteless, so to determine if levels of the chemical are present, it must be tested. More information regarding state, local and federal resources to assist domestic well owners may be forthcoming. Until then, the marketplace offers tests to help determine if PFAS is present.

On the Continued Protection of Water Quality:

The EPA announced in March 2023 that it would be adopting a new rule to control for PFAS under the Safe Drinking Water Act, which is used to develop water standards using the best available peer-reviewed science.

TMWA’s drinking water is sampling at a lower detection level than current UCMR guidance, which is also consistent with the EPA’s proposed rule.

Additional Action:

Federal Level

Key EPA Actions with partners across the country to more efficiently detect and measure PFAS in our air, water, soil, fish and wildlife, along with how to remove, manage and dispose of PFAS.

State of Nevada

PFAS Action Plan a set of steps to determine many objectives including “the location and extent of potentially significant discharges or releases of PFAS in the State.”


Helpful Links:

EPA - PFAS Information Page

EPA - Key Action to Address PFAS

EPA - Our Current Understanding of the Human Health and Environmental Risks of PFAS

US Food & Drug Administration - Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS)

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Washoe County - Swan and Silver Lake Water Level Monitoring