EPA Unveils National Strategy to Confront PFAS Contamination

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U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael Regan recently announced the agency’s comprehensive Strategic Roadmap to confront per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) contamination nationwide. The Roadmap is the result of a thorough analysis conducted by the EPA Council on PFAS that Regan established in April. 

EPA’s Roadmap is centered on three guiding strategies: Increase investments in research, leverage authorities to take action now to restrict PFAS chemicals from being released into the environment, and accelerate the cleanup of PFAS contamination.

“For far too long, families across America — especially those in underserved communities — have suffered from PFAS in their water, their air, or in the land their children play on,” says Regan. “This comprehensive, national PFAS strategy will deliver protections to people who are hurting, by advancing bold and concrete actions that address the full lifecycle of these chemicals. Let there be no doubt that EPA is listening, we have your back, and we are laser focused on protecting people from pollution and holding polluters accountable.”

Alongside the release of the Roadmap, the agency is announcing a new national testing strategy that requires PFAS manufacturers to provide the agency with toxicity data and information on categories of PFAS chemicals. The PFAS to be tested will be selected based on an approach that breaks the large number of PFAS today into smaller categories based on similar features and considers what existing data are available for each category. EPA’s initial set of test orders for PFAS, which are expected in a matter of months, will be strategically selected from more than 20 different categories of PFAS. This set of orders will provide the agency with critical information on more than 2,000 other similar PFAS that fall within these categories.

The Roadmap lays out:

• Aggressive timelines to set enforceable drinking water limits under the Safe Drinking Water Act to ensure water is safe to drink in every community.
• A hazardous substance designation under CERCLA, to strengthen the ability to hold polluters financially accountable.
• Timelines for action — whether it is data collection or rule-making — on Effluent Guideline Limitations under the Clean Water Act for nine industrial categories.
• A review of past actions on PFAS taken under the Toxic Substances Control Act to address those that are insufficiently protective.
• Increased monitoring, data collection and research so that the agency can identify what actions are needed and when to take them.
• A final toxicity assessment for GenX, which can be used to develop health advisories that will help communities make informed decisions to better protect human health and ecological wellness.
• Continued efforts to build the technical foundation needed on PFAS air emissions to inform future actions under the Clean Air Act.  

The roadmap includes the following EPA actions and timelines:

  • Finalize the Fifth Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule to require monitoring for 29 PFAS – end of 2021
  • Issue final health advisories for perfluorobutane sulfonic acid (PFBS) and GenX – Spring 2022
  • Propose, then finalize, enforceable drinking water limits under the Safe Drinking Water Act for perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS) – Fall 2023
  • Finalize a rule-making designating PFOA and PFOS as hazardous substances under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act – Summer 2023
  • Issue update to guidance initially released in December 2020 for destroying and disposing of PFAS and PFAS-containing materials – Fall through December 2023
  • Publish EPA Method 1633 as a final, multi-laboratory validated analytical method for Clean Water Act applications – Winter 2022; make additional updates to drinking water analytical methods for PFAS – Fall 2024
  • Issue new guidance recommending state-issued permits that do not already include monitoring requirements for PFAS, to use EPA’s recently published analytical method 1633 – Winter 2022
  • Complete a risk assessment for PFOA and PFOS in biosolids – Winter 2024
  • Complete draft PFHxS, PFHxA, PFNA, and PFDA IRIS assessments for public comment and peer review – Spring – Fall 2022; finalize the PFBA risk assessment – Fall 2022  

“AWWA supports regulating PFOA and PFOS in drinking water based on the best available science,” says Tracy Mehan, AWWA’s executive director of government affairs. “We have repeatedly called on EPA to better utilize the Toxic Substances Control Act and other statutes to gather data and take appropriate actions to prevent problematic PFAS compounds from entering the nation’s water supply.”

Over the coming weeks, EPA will be working to partner for progress on PFAS. The agency will be engaging with a wide range of stakeholders to continue to identify collaborative solutions to the PFAS challenge, including two national webinars that will be held on Oct. 26 and Nov. 2. Participants can RSVP to the webinars using the hyperlinked dates.  

Additional information on the Strategic Roadmap is available online at www.epa.gov/pfas.


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