Facts About PFAS

Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS)

What are per – and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS)?

Per – and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a group of manmade chemicals that have been used worldwide, including in the United States, in consumer products such as carpets, clothing, food packaging, and cookware, industrial applications and in firefighting since the 1940s. There are between 6,000 and 10,000 different chemical compounds in the PFAS family and they are used to make products that resist heat, oil, stains, grease and water. Two of these compounds—Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA) and Perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS)—have been the most extensively produced and studied, and there is evidence that exposure to elevated levels of PFAS can lead to adverse health outcomes in humans.

Elevated PFAS levels are sometimes found near chemical factories, or other manufacturing facilities that use PFAS. Over the past several years, PFAS testing has been performed across the United States. Stafford participated in a Virginia Department of Health study looking at PFAS in the state. Across the country, many low-level detections are being found in urban and industrialized areas and near military bases and airports. The PFAS results from Stafford’s water plants are below.

PFAS Type

EPA Limit (ppt)

Smith Lake

Lake Mooney

PFOA

4.0

2.0 3

3.5 3

PFOS

4.0

6.4

3.0 3

PFNA

10.0

ND 2

ND 2

PFHxS

10.0

3.1 3

1.7 3

GenX (HFPO-DA)

10.0

ND 2

ND 2

PFBS

2000.0 1

1.2 3

2.7 3


1* PFBS limit is only included as part of the Hazard Index calculation with PFHxS, Gen X, and PFNA.
2* ND = Non Detect – No results for that parameter were over the detection limit of the lab method.
3* Results are under Lab Quantification Limit – Lab results are to small to be accurately reported.

A part per trillion (ppt) is a very small number; almost the same as one second every 32,000 years. The EPA is still researching what effect these almost undetectable levels could have on human health. While scientific research is ongoing, the EPA has set the above listed limits for the six PFAS in the table with a compliance deadline in early 2029. The Utilities Department began the long and costly process to upgrade the system before the limits were even finalized. Stafford will need to significantly upgrade its water system to ensure the delivery of high-quality drinking water that meets these new limits.

Stafford's PFAS Pilot Study:

Before the new treatment system can be built or even designed, it must first be determined how best to remove PFAS from the water. Many technologies to remove PFAS are still new, and traditional methods are unproven for the low levels in Stafford. So, Stafford Utilities brought in a water consultant firm to design a pilot study that will look at six different kinds of filters to see what works the best. Different kinds of Granular Activated Carbon (GAC), similar to household filters but bigger and better, and also Ion Exchange (IX) filters specially made to remove PFAS are being looked at. The pilot design has been reviewed and approved by VDH, and a mandatory one-year study was started in April 2024. By the end of the study, we will select the best filters for Stafford and can continue into design and construction.

PFAS timeline

install-1 pfas study

install-2 pfas study

Reducing Your Exposure to PFAS

  • Support efforts to protect drinking water sources and keep PFAS out of water supplies.
  • Cook with stainless steel, cast-iron, glass, or ceramics. Don’t use nonstick cookware.
  • Read product labels and choose products without "PTFE" or "perfluoro-" and "polyfluor-".
  • Look for coats, hats, and boots labeled water-resistant. They’re less likely to have PFAS than waterproof products.
  • Make popcorn on the stove or in an air popper instead of microwave bags.
  • Steer clear of ordering food in grease-resistant wrappers or containers.
  • Avoid carpets and upholstery treated to be stain or water-resistant; decline stain treatment.
  • Ask manufacturers if their products contain PFAS. These chemicals are often not listed.

For more information:

For the latest results of water testing in Stafford County, view the Water Quality Report.

If you are concerned about your water quality, read more about how to have your home's water tested

Updated June 6, 2024