P.C.Bs and the Clean Water Act


Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are a group of man-made chemicals found throughout the environment. Because any human consumption of this contaminant is unhealthy, the EPA and the Clean Water Act work to enforce regulations to protect people from exposure.


The Clean Water Act

The Clean Water Act (CWA) requires states to adopt numeric criteria for “priority toxic pollutants.” The CWA bases it’s requirements on the criteria guidelines published by the EPA. The EPA’s criteria guidance for “priority toxic pollutants,” such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), determines if the discharge or presence of such pollutants could reasonably be expected to interfere with the designated uses of the State’s waters.

In 1992, EPA published the National Toxics Rule (NTR), establishing water quality criteria for toxic pollutants in fourteen States and jurisdictions to protect human health and aquatic life. The NTR affected States include:

  • Alaska
  • District of Columbia
  • Kansas
  • Michigan
  • Nevada
  • New Jersey
  • Puerto Rico
  • Rhode Island
  • Vermont
  • Washington

What are PCBs?

Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are a group of man-made chemicals. They are oily liquids or solids, clear to yellow in color, with no smell or taste. PCBs are very stable mixtures that are resistant to extreme temperature and pressure.

PCBs have been released into the environment through spills, leaks from electrical and other equipment, and improper disposal and storage. It is estimated that more than half of the PCBs produced have been released into the environment.


Water Quality Criteria for PCBs

According to Spokane County Water Resources, the adopted numeric water quality criteria for PCBs as of November 2019 are as follows:

  • Federal allowance in products = 50 parts per million (ppm)
  • Federal allowance in drinking water = 0.0005 ppm
  • Washington State human health water quality criteria (allowable in lakes and streams) = 0.000000007 ppm
  • Federal human health water quality criteria (allowable in lakes and streams) = 0.000000064 ppm
  • Spokane Tribe water quality standard (allowable in lakes and streams) = 0.00000000137 ppm

Food for Thought – What do the above numbers mean?

1 Part-Per-Million Examples:

  • 1 inch in 16 miles
  • 1 minute in two years
  • 1 ounce in 32 tons
  • $0.01 in $10,000

No amount of PCB is healthy and could potentially lead to adverse health effects, including cancer. PCB can also lead to non-cancer health effects on the immune system, reproductive system, nervous system and endocrine system (EPA).

WaterDaddy offers filtration systems that will reduce PCB and other contaminants from your water, leaving you with fresh, clean water.
To ensure your home’s water is contaminant free, and to learn more about PCBs, please call 509-381-7818 or schedule your FREE in-home water test here.


Works Cited

Spokane County Water Resources. “PCBs.” Spokane County, published date not available, https://www.spokanecounty.org/1251/PCBs. Accessed 9 Nov. 2019.

Environmental Protection Agency. “Rules and Regulations,” Federal Register, Vol. 64, No. 216, 9 Nov. 1999. https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/FR-1999-11-09/pdf/99-25559.pdf Accessed 9 Nov. 2019.

Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs). Feb. 2009. http://www.idph.state.il.us/envhealth/factsheets/polychlorinatedbiphenyls.htm Accessed Dec. 5 2019.

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