As public awareness of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) continues to expand, water professionals are seeking ways to communicate with their customers clearly, concisely, and consistently about what PFAS are, where they come from, and whether they are detected in drinking water. Through the project PFAS One Water Risk Communication Messaging for Water Sector Professionals, American Water and The Water Research Foundation (WRF) have released two PFAS communication toolkits for use by water systems as they interact with customers, regulators, and other stakeholders.
“We’re excited to join with American Water and other partners in the release of these new PFAS communication toolkits as part of our broad PFAS research portfolio. There has never been a more important time for water professionals to communicate clearly about the presence of PFAS in the environment,” said Peter Grevatt, Chief Executive Officer of WRF.
Workshops, stakeholder engagement, and message testing were used to develop the toolkits. The first toolkit, focused on the concept of One Water, presents information describing where PFAS come from and how they enter the environment and impact drinking water and wastewater systems. The toolkit materials can be used to educate the public about the many products that contain PFAS and how they contribute to the routes of exposure to these compounds. Content was developed for utility use on websites, bill inserts, social media, brochures, and other communications platforms.
A second toolkit was developed for use in conjunction with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s fifth Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule (UCMR5), which requires sampling for 29 individual PFAS. This toolkit includes an instructional “How To” manual that helps water systems to design their own frequently asked questions (FAQs) documents to share with customers and stakeholders. The FAQs can also be used as the basis for other communication materials, including talking points for frontline employees, public information officers, and utility leaders. Every water system faces unique circumstances related to PFAS management and regulatory requirements; therefore, water systems can use the toolkit materials to refine their messaging by incorporating their specific system information
“As an industry leader, American Water is proud of its participation in The Water Research Foundation’s efforts to engage with other industry experts to understand and better explain PFAS and its presence in the environment,” said Cheryl Norton, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer at American Water. “We’re confident that the assets developed by the entire team that delivered the toolkits for UCMR5 and One Water will assist our water and wastewater colleagues to accurately inform and educate their customers about PFAS.”
The materials in these toolkits are customizable by water systems and encompass a variety of outreach methods. Use of the toolkit materials can reinforce the utility/customer relationship and enhance water systems’ roles as sources of accurate information and environmental stewards for communities around the globe.
“Water quality and the safety of our customers and communities are a top priority at American Water. We are proud to have taken a leadership role, in collaboration with The Water Research Foundation, to develop educational messaging regarding PFAS that will position water and wastewater systems to be the trusted sources of truth for the communities they serve,” added Lynda DiMenna, Chief Environmental and Safety Officer at American Water.
This project was funded by WRF and the American Water Works Association, and the research team was comprised of communications and technical experts from American Water, Hazen and Sawyer, and CDM Smith.