Water Quality Emerging Compounds

Emerging Compounds

Emerging compounds are relatively unknown compounds that are increasingly being detected in soil, groundwater and surface water. As science advances, laboratories can detect these compounds, and researchers are discovering new details about their impacts. The emerging compounds known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances or PFAS are of concern both nationally and in North Carolina.

What are PFAS chemicals, and why are they in our drinking water? 

PFAS are a category of manufactured chemicals that have been used in industry and consumer products since the 1940s. PFAS have characteristics that make them useful in a variety of products, including nonstick cookware, waterproof clothing, and firefighting foam, as well as in certain manufacturing processes. People can be exposed to PFAS in several ways. When their drinking water is contaminated with PFAS, it can be a significant portion of a person's total PFAS exposure. Exposure to PFAS over a long time and during certain critical life stages, like during pregnancy and in developing babies, may lead to negative health effects. PFAS can enter the environment from multiple sources, and because they tend to break down very slowly in the environment, PFAS can end up in the water sources that many communities rely on for drinking water. Reducing PFAS in drinking water helps reduce PFAS health risks.

On March 14, 2023, EPA announced the proposed National Primary Drinking Water Regulation (NPDWR) for six PFAS compounds, including perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS), perfluorononanoic acid (PFNA), hexafluoropropylene oxide dimer acid (HFPO-DA, commonly known as GenX Chemicals), perfluorohexane sulfonic acid (PFHxS), and perfluorobutane sulfonic acid (PFBS). The proposed PFAS NPDWR does not require any actions until it is finalized. EPA anticipates finalizing the regulation by the end of 2023. EPA expects that if fully implemented, the rule will prevent thousands of deaths and reduce tens of thousands of serious PFAS-attributable illnesses.  To learn more about PFAS, please go to the following links:   



The City of High Point participated in the NC Public Water Supply Section's voluntary per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) sampling efforts during September, October and November of 2022.  (See report here).  Included also is the PTRWA Consumer Confidence Report, which also includes emerging contaminant data. The City of High Point is working with the EPA and the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality to monitor for emerging contaminants in our drinking water supplies and evaluate potential treatment technologies for the removal of PFAS.