PFAS Sampling Results

TDEC Sampling for PFAS

The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) is preparing for a statewide effort to sample all public drinking water system sources for 29 PFAS. 

This initial assessment will help TDEC determine the potential presence and concentration of PFAS compounds in source waters throughout the state. Should detections of PFAS occur in raw source water, TDEC will conduct follow-up sampling of the respective system’s finished drinking water. In addition to understanding potential presence of PFAS in Tennessee, the results of this effort will help TDEC and the regulated community understand if the department and public water systems should take action to reduce human exposure to PFAS via drinking water. Sample collection will be conducted by TDEC Division of Water Resources (DWR) staff located in TDEC’s eight environmental field offices across the state.

TDEC will post assessment results to allow public access to sampling information as available. At the conclusion of the assessment, TDEC will publish a report summarizing all data and results on this page.

Non-TDEC Sampling Efforts

Outside of TDEC, the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD), U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and some localities have conducted their own sampling for various PFAS constituents in Tennessee. Some of this data is reflected in the map below; however, due to differences in the sampling efforts (e.g., different sampling methodologies, reporting mechanisms, media sampled), it is challenging to summarize all sampling data in a unified manner via this map. View the map with PFAS Sampling in Tennessee. Therefore, TDEC plans to use this webpage to share information and data, made available to TDEC, from external PFAS sampling efforts.

In 2019, Metro Water Services conducted a voluntary sampling of Nashville’s drinking water systems for PFAS. Their stated goal was to go above and beyond current federal and state monitoring requirements to understand the potential presence of PFAS in Nashville’s drinking water. The results of the sampling effort are displayed in the table below. 

EPA PFAS Strategic Plan

U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) sites have been found, in some instances, to have elevated levels of PFAS associated with legacy use of aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF) for fire fighting efforts. Due to the widespread use of AFFF at some sites, the U.S. DOD has been engaging in sampling for PFAS both on-base and off-base at locations across the country, including in Tennessee. DOD makes PFAS sampling reports available to TDEC as they are finalized. As mentioned above, TDEC has attempted to summarize this sampling data via our PFAS map, but there are challenges with communicating all information via this approach. DOD sampling reports submitted to TDEC are provided in full below:

A requirement of the 1996 Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) amendments, the Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule (UCMR) provides EPA authority to collect data on unregulated contaminants that are suspected of being present in drinking water and do not have health-based standards under the SDWA. Occurring once every 5 years, a total of 3 separate UCMR sampling events have been completed since it began in 2001, with a fourth underway (2017-2021).

EPA’s Third Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule (UCMR3) sampling event, conducted during 2013-2015, sampled for six different PFAS in finished drinking water nationwide. In Tennessee, 131 Public Water Systems (PWS) were monitored under this rule for the occurrence of PFAS. Three PWS in Tennessee, two from surface sources and one from groundwater sources, had PFAS detections that were below EPA’s established health advisory levels.

The map above contains the results of UCMR3 in Tennessee. 

Since 2008, EPA has conducted a series of three fish contamination studies as part of the Agency’s National Rivers and Streams Assessments (NRSA) that occur in five-year cycles. The NRSA is one of four statistical surveys that make up the National Aquatic Resource Surveys).  The EPA describes the NRSA as a collaborative survey that provides information on the ecological condition of the nation’s rivers and streams and the key stressors that affect them, both on a national and an ecoregional scale.

Surveys have been conducted in 2008-2009, 2013-2014, and 2018-2019 and includes fish tissue sampling for various contaminants, including PFAS. Data from these surveys are not immediately available; currently, only data from the 2008-2009 and 2013-2014 surveys are available. Research has found PFOS to be one of the most common PFAS found in freshwater fish tissue. PFOS was detected in multiple fish species (e.g., largemouth bass) in several of the State’s rivers, including the Tennessee, Cumberland, Wolf and Mississippi Rivers.

On the map above you can find detections of PFOS in fish in Tennessee during the 2008-2009 and 2013-2014 surveys.