PFAS Information

What are PFAS?

PFAS, or per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances, are a class of man-made chemicals not found naturally in the environment, and are associated with adverse health impacts if detected in high levels. PFAS refers to a group of chemical compounds that are used in a wide variety of products, such as some carpets, cookware, food packaging, and clothing because they are resistant to heat, water and oil. They are also found in foams used to fight certain kinds of fires. Once these chemicals make their way into the environment, many do not break down and they are very difficult to remove, including from public water supplies.

Why are PFAS a concern for the City?

PFAS are called “emerging contaminants,” referring to one of several chemicals or groups of chemicals that have been discovered over the last several years to be present in a growing number of public water supply systems across the US. PFAS may enter water supplies from landfills, applications of firefighting foam (e.g. at airports, fire training facilities, petroleum fires, etc.), industrial sites, and wastewater treatment plant discharge.  The City’s water supply comes primarily from groundwater and can be impacted by these sources. 

Studies indicate that long-term exposure to some PFAS over certain levels may lead to adverse health effects including:

  • Increased cholesterol levels
  • Decreased vaccine response in children
  • Changes in liver enzymes
  • Increased risk of high blood pressure or pre-eclampsia in pregnant women
  • Small decreases in infant birth weights
  • Increased risk of kidney or testicular cancer  

For more information see the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) factsheet here.

The ability to detect the presence of these compounds has advanced faster than the ability to understand their public health implications. Technological advances allow us to now detect concentrations in the parts-per-trillion (ppt) range (for some sense of scale, 1 ppt is the equivalent of a single drop of water in 20 Olympic-sized swimming pools). The scientific understanding and regulatory response to these compounds is uncertain but rapidly evolving. This includes potential public health implications.

Have PFAS been detected in the City's water?

Knowing that PFAS have been detected in water systems throughout the country and elsewhere in Colorado, the City of Brighton voluntarily participated in testing its untreated water supply in 2020 and 2021 and low levels of PFAS have been detected in the city’s wells. This does not pose a threat to the public’s health. As a health advisory from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the city is not in any violation. A final EPA regulation is expected in the fall of 2023, at which time the city will follow closely and ensure compliance. 

What is the City doing?

On June 15, 2022, the EPA released four drinking water health advisories for PFAS. The City of Brighton is closely monitoring the new EPA drinking water health advisories for PFAS chemicals and will be working with the state for further guidance.  The advisories set a limit for the substance in drinking water with a goal of protecting public health. Read more about the EPA announcement here.

The city’s new water treatment will feature granular activated carbon filters that will remove PFAS, while also improving water taste and odor. The plant is set to break ground on July 26.