The Fight to Eliminate “Forever Chemicals”- PFAS

the South Platte River flowing with trees on the banks
Two outfall structures releasing water into the south platte river in Denver
The outfalls area at Metro’s Robert W. Hite Treatment Facility in Denver.


How manufacturers sell consumer favorites such as grease-resistant cookware, stain-resistant carpet, cosmetics and waterproof items will soon change.  
 
With the help of PFAS, these everyday products have helped make life a little safer, easier, less sticky and less messy. And while the chemicals have added convenience to our daily lives, they are also negatively impacting our environment.   
 
PFAS—which stands for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances— are man-made chemicals used in the manufacture of many household items produced since the late 1930s. Products with PFAS include fire-fighting foams, adhesives, cosmetics, paper products, oils, gas products and much more.  

The substances are engineered to be resistant to both heat and water, remaining in our environment forever – which is how they earned the nickname ‘forever chemicals’. Work by scientists and engineers to develop commercially-available technologies that can permanently remove PFAS from our environment is still ongoing.  

The lifecycle of PFAS does not begin at water recovery facilities. Instead, consumer products containing the ‘forever chemicals’ are used in homes and by businesses. When these PFAS-containing products are washed, rinsed or flushed, they enter the water cycle through wastewater that flows to domestic water recovery facilities, which are designed for treating residential sewage and are not able to remove or destroy PFAS.  

“Legislation limiting the use of PFAS in consumer products is vital,” said Jennifer Robinett, director of environmental services, Metro Water Recovery. “The best approach to addressing PFAS in the environment is to prevent it from entering the water cycle in the first place.”  
 
In 2022, Metro Water Recovery actively supported Colorado’s effort to begin limiting the number of PFAS chemicals entering the water cycle. It joined statewide environmental agencies and state representatives who presented a bi-partisan bill at the Colorado capitol. The goal of the bill was to stop manufacturing companies from introducing PFAS into Colorado’s water cycle. 
 
“The most effective, environmentally friendly solution is to hold manufacturers accountable without punishing the consumer,” said Erin Bertoli, governmental affairs liaison, Metro Water Recovery. “This new law will prevent manufacturers from adding PFAS chemicals to specific products sold to consumers, which will reduce the volume of the “forever chemicals” flowing into water recovery facilities, like Metro Water Recovery.”  
 
Governor Jared Polis signed Colorado House Bill 22-1345 into law on June 3, 2022. EarthJustice, an environmental law organization, considered this bill one of the “most comprehensive state laws in the nation”.  

Coloradoans can expect regulations of HB22-1345 to roll out in three phases beginning January 1, 2024, with the final phase going into effect by 2027:  

Phase 1

  • January 1, 2024, carpets, rugs, fabric treatments, food packaging, juvenile products, oil and gas products cannot be sold or distributed with PFAS chemicals.
  • Manufacturers selling cookware used for food or beverages must include a label on the product warning consumers of the presence of the ‘forever chemicals.’ 

Phase 2

  • January 1, 2025, manufacturers can no longer sell cosmetics, indoor textile furnishings, indoor upholstered furniture with added PFAS. 

Phase 3

  • January 1, 2027, manufacturers can no longer sell outdoor textile furnishings, outdoor upholstered furniture with added PFAS. 

 
Metro Water Recovery is the largest resource recovery and clean water provider in the Rocky Mountain West, representing 61 local municipalities and serving approximately 2.2 million people. Metro cleans and reclaims about 135 million gallons of water per day. The efforts behind Metro’s support of HB22-1345 directly align with its mission to protect public health and the environment. 
 
Since 1961, Metro Water Recovery has invested more than $2 billion to recover resources and improve the quality of the South Platte River, which includes operation and regular testing to meet regulatory standards and requirements set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE).  
 
Follow the flow by visiting Metro Water Recovery’s Transforming Wastewater interactive webpage and watch the water move through the steps of the treatment process. Take a deeper dive into the organization’s legacy of environmental stewardship and latest innovations by visiting www.MetroWaterRecovery.com.  

Decorative wave divider